Two CT scanners of Dhaka Medical College Hospital are out of order, causing serious disruption to patient services.
One of the machines broke down about 10 months ago and the other nine days back.
Besides, the hospital's lone MRI scanner has been inoperative since November 10, said DMCH sources.
Patients admitted to the country's largest hospital were counting extra costs to undergo CT and MRI scans at other medical facilities in the city. The delay in diagnosis was putting patients' lives at risk.
Take the case of Ratan Mallick. The 26-year-old patient from Sonargaon of Narayanganj was admitted to the hospital about 10 days ago with head injury.
On Monday, doctors at the hospital's neurosurgery ward advised a CT scan of Ratan's head. But his relatives found the Radiology and Imaging Department closed as the CT and MRI scanners were out of order.
“We took him to a private diagnostic centre in Dhanmondi. As we had to negotiate a heavy traffic, his condition deteriorated. On our way back, he fell unconscious,” Ratan's brother-in-law Omar Chand Biswas told The Daily Star.
The test and the travel cost the patient Tk 4,000, double the expenses at the DMCH.
Prof Ehsan Mahmud, recently retired head of the neurosurgery department of DMCH, said patients with brain hemorrhage and fracture of skull need to have CT scans and surgeries promptly. Taking such patients to a distant medical facility for tests might make their condition worse, he added.
Poor patients, who could undergo such tests at the public hospital at lower costs and sometimes even for free, were being compelled to bear the burden of extra medical expenses.
Bidhan Bhowmik, 32, from Gajaria of Munshiganj got admitted to the surgery ward about 12 days back with severe abdominal pain and swelling. On Tuesday, doctors advised a CT scan of his whole abdomen.
His relatives pleaded with the hospital authority to get the test done for free. But his prayer was of no use as the machines were inoperative.
The test was later done at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. His total costs for the test, medicine and travel stood at Tk 11,000, which would have been Tk 6,000 at the DMCH.
The CT scanning was introduced at the hospital in 1999. Prof Mizanur Rahman, head of the radiology and imaging department, said the MRI scanner was set up in 2004.
The costs for CT scan of brain, whole abdomen and chest and abdomen at the hospital are Tk 2,000, Tk 4,000 and Tk 6,500.
Some 3,500 patients remain admitted to the 2,700-bed hospital daily. On an average, 10 to 12 CT and one MRI scans are performed on poor patients for free everyday, said DMCH sources.
The hospital has a demand of some 200 CT and 30 MRI scans daily. In the last 10 months, the CT scanner could conduct 110-150 tests daily. The MRI machine could serve only 12-17 patients everyday.
Officials said they needed at least five CT and two MRI scanners to serve the patients smoothly.
Amir Hossain, who came from the vendor's office to repair a CT scanner, said the machine broke down as it was run for a long time at a stretch.
Prof Mizanur said they were trying to get the CT and MRI scanners operational on a priority basis.
Khawaja Abdul Gafur, assistant director (administration) of the DMCH, said he wrote to the higher authorities for procuring two CT and one MRI machines.