The health ministry has decided to hold a meeting with the leaders of private medical associations in the wake of allegations against different private hospitals over Covid-19 test and treatment.
Its Health Service Division yesterday wrote to the presidents and the general secretaries of several associations to attend the "views-exchange meeting" on August 9.
Abdul Mannan, secretary of the division, will preside over the meeting on "Prevention of Covid-19, ensuring health service and how to provide more humanitarian assistance to people in this time", said a letter, signed by a senior assistant secretary.
The development comes days after the law enforcement agencies raided several hospitals in the capital and outside the city over issuing fake Covid-19 certificates and operating without renewing licences timely.
Besides, the scams of two private facilities -- Regent Hospital and JKG Health Care -- over faking the Covid-19 tests added fuel to the fire. The handling of the situation by the Directorate General of Health Services also came into question after the scandals.
The government has already started restructuring the health services by replacing top officials, including the embattled director general of the DGHS, to ensure better coordination. Moreover, around 30 doctors of DGHS were also transferred.
On July 21, the health ministry sought from the DGHS a complete list of private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centres that did not renew their licences timely.
According to media reports, two thirds of the country's over 15,000 private clinics and diagnostic centres have been running without any valid licence since 2018 facing almost no consequences.
The DGHS did nothing but send notices to these facilities and make public announcements in newspapers, officials admitted.
The ministry's letter mentioned that raids at different private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centres over irregularities in Covid-19 treatment following media reports in recent time are the first issue of the meeting.
The other issues include media reports about irregularities over Covid-19 testing; operations of different private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centers without licence renewal; overcharging for treatment and inhuman behaviour with patient's attendants.
Contacted, Prof Dr Maniruzzaman Bhuiyan, president of Bangladesh Private Clinic and Diagnostic Owners' Association, told The Daily Star yesterday that they were yet to get the invitation letter for the meeting.
Asked about the allegations, he said, "We are embarrassed over such incidents that are tarnishing our reputation."
He, however, said none of the hospitals raided by the law enforcers recently were their members.
"We have sent letters to our members to refrain from such malpractices," said Prof Maniruzzaman.
The association has 10,000 members.
Asked about the allegation of overcharging, he said treatment costs have increased during the pandemic as they have to pay more to their doctors and staffers.
"But we've asked our members not to charge patients irrationally."
He said many private hospitals do not have renewed licences for "many reasons."
The government has increased the renewal fees for a 10-bed hospital from Tk 5,000 to Tk 50,000 one year ago. "Is it possible for a small hospital to give the money," Prof Maniruzzaman questioned.
Besides, trade licences of hospitals in residential areas were not renewed after 2018, and for not having the renewed trade licences, many hospitals can not apply for renewing their licences, he said.
"We will talk to the health minister about the issue," he added.