A costly ‘warning' | Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 11, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:22 PM, July 11, 2019

A costly ‘warning'

Cancer specialist transferred to remote district for criticising Mashrafe

A top child cancer specialist -- one of only three such experts in the country -- has been transferred from Chattogram Medical College Hospital to a Rangamati hospital with no cancer treatment facilities.

The move came as a “warning” for making a “defamatory” Facebook post against lawmaker and also Bangladesh cricket captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.

In this situation, patients in CMCH are suffering. 

Dr AKM Rezaul Karim on April 28 made a comment on a Facebook public post, calling lawmaker Mashrafe an “unruly, illiterate, thug”.

It came after the Bangladesh captain’s visit to Narail Sadar Hospital on April 24, where he found four doctors to be absent.

A video of his visit went viral on social media and sparked huge criticism among the people against absentee doctors, prompting the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to suspend the four missing doctors.

A number of doctors, however, questioned the language Mashrafe used while talking to one of the absentees over phone. Many took to social media to voice their displeasure.

On May 6, the Department of Health Services of the ministry issued a notice to Karim asking to show cause within three working days as to why actions should not be taken against him, terming the comment misconduct.

During the beginning of May, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Murad Hasan said some of the doctors’ comments -- using derogatory language -- was regrettable. He said even the prime minister felt troubled by it.

On June 26, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare transferred Dr AKM Rezaul Karim, one of three professors of Paediatric Haematology & Oncology, from CMCH to Rangamati Medical College Hospital.

Asked about the transfer, Zahid Maleque, minister for Health and Family Welfare, said, “I will not term it a punishment; rather it is a warning to thwart this sort of incident in future.”

The minister said such a comment about a lawmaker was not “decent”.

As for the patients’ sufferings, he said they would ensure a proper replacement for Karim in CMCH soon, despite him being only one of three such specialists in the country.

 Dr Ehteshamul Haq Dulal, secretary general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), told The Daily Star, “Critical patients from at least seven other districts under Chattogram division are usually referred to CMCH and Dr Karim has been serving them very sincerely.

“We became surprised to know about the transfer of Dr Karim in Rangmati as he will not have scope to use his knowledge and expertise as there are no facilities to treat the cancer patients there,” he said.

He said that Karim was one of three experts of paediatric oncology in Bangladesh, adding such a specialist should not be transferred to a hospital where he would not be able to use his expertise.

Prof Dr Iqbal Arslan, president of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad, urged the ministry to withdraw the order saying it was issued without considering the consequences.

“Dr Karim introduced this department in CMCH and he was developing it,” he said, adding, “There will only be an assistant professor and a medical officer after the transfer of Karim, which will hamper treatment of patients severely.”

According to the CMCH sources, earlier the paediatric cancer patients of greater Chattogram had to go to Dhaka or abroad for treatment, however, establishment of the department by Karim in 2013 changed this.

On an average, 100 patients receive treatment at the ward, most of whom do not have the ability to go to Dhaka or abroad, sources added.

Karim, who is yet to join his new workplace, told The Daily Star at his office recently, that as a government employee he could be transferred anywhere in the country.

“However, I will have little scope to use my expertise at Rangamati Medical College Hospital as there is no set up for treating cancer patients,” he added.

HUMAN CHAIN FORMED

On July 4, More than 100 cancer patients and their relatives formed a human chain in front of Chattogram Press Club demanding withdrawal of the transfer order of Karim.

They demanded intervention of the prime minister in this regard, saying that the cancer patients of greater Chattogram would be the worst sufferers if the transfer order was not withdrawn.

While visiting the ward on Tuesday, 32 patients were found admitted, most of whom expressed disappointment after Karim’s transfer.

Sufia Begum, mother of 11-year-old Md Tareque, who has been suffering from acute lymphocytic leukaemia, told The Daily Star, “For the poor patients, Dr Karim even manages donor for expensive medicines which are not provided from the hospital.”

She also said they heard that there was no other cancer expert like Karim in the hospital, adding, “My husband is a day-labourer and it is beyond our ability to take our son to Dhaka or elsewhere.”

Abu Taher, father of 10-year-old Tisha, who has been suffering from kidney cancer, said “Dr Karim is the lone professor of this department; we are apprehensive that his transfer may lead to a disruption in treatment.”

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