Basharul Huda, an employee of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, was admitted to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) with Covid-19 symptoms on Sunday. He was accommodated on the floor of the Corona Observation Ward's veranda as the ward was running out of space.
Though later several beds were emptied, he was not moved to any of them.
Basharul said, "After being admitted to the hospital I found that no space was empty. So I was treated on the floor of the Corona Observation Ward's veranda. Later, several beds became empty, but when I wanted to shift to one of the beds, the ward boys and ayahs (attendants) demanded money – an amount of Tk2,000-Tk3,000."
Not only Basharul, but five more patients of the 100-bed novel coronavirus unit told The Business Standard that nothing was available there without paying. To get services, beds and meals, the patients had to pay the ward boys and ayahs.
The 1,313-bed hospital is the last destination for the residents of 11 districts of Chattogram division. The number of admitted patients there is several times higher than its capacity. So, the patients do not get their desired service.
Allegedly, a syndicate there exploits the patients – taking advantage of the crisis. The permanent staff of the hospital allegedly controls the syndicate while the temporary employees take the money from the patients and their relatives.
After starting the ward, the alleged syndicate also began to take money from the patients and their relatives in exchange for providing them with services. If the patients do not give them what they ask, the patients do not get proper services.
The patients who have raised these allegations have claimed that though they have informed the authorities about the situation, the authorities have not taken any steps in this regard.
Kamruzzaman, ward master of the hospital, said, "Some new ward boys are employed in the Corona Unit. We are not informed about the allegation of money being taken. If we get such complaints, we will take action against the staff involved with it after discussing the matter with the higher authorities."
Dr Aftabul Islam, deputy director of the hospital, said, "Though the Corona Unit has 100 beds, more than 150 patients are admitted here. There is a crisis of ayahs and ward boys in the unit. So, many patients do not receive their desired service,
however, we have not received any complaint of money being taken in exchange for services. We request patients, if any member of the staff does this, to complain to the hospital's director directly. We will take punitive measures if we get any such complaints."
Dr Sushanta Barua, Public Health Rights Protection Committee Chattogram chapter member secretary, said the government had already declared it will bear all the treatment costs, including novel coronavirus testing, of Covid-19 patients. However, allegations of money being taken from Covid-19 patients at Chattogram Hospital have been raised, which contravenes the government's announcement, he added. The committee has called on the authorities concerned to take action against the perpetrators.
Earlier, 250-300 special ayahs and ward boys worked at the hospital without receiving wages. The hospital authorities allowed them to take a maximum of Tk30 from each patient they served. However, the staff forcibly took money from the patients. Then the authorities removed the temporary staff from the hospital.
Later, ward boys and ayahs were appointed on an outsourcing basis and they were paid salaries. However, still, the allegations of patients being exploited have arisen.