Meals on schedule but treatment scant
Complaining about hospital food is a cliché worthy of cinema. On-screen, less than tasty food might well be tolerated in light of its relative unimportance next to quality treatment. But in the real world, at Kumarkhali upazila's health complex in Kushtia, food of any quality is the highlight. Meals are served regularly. It's treatment that's hard to find.
“We get meals,” says Akram Uddin, 62, a day labourer who was admitted at the health complex with severe abdomen pains several days ago. “We get meals regularly. But there is no treatment.”
He says he saw a doctor on the Saturday of his admission; but from then until he spoke with The Daily Star at midday on the following Tuesday he had not consulted any doctor.
Meals, meanwhile, are delivered on schedule, bedside. Several other patients described identical circumstances.
The government health complex, which was upgraded to a 50-bed facility in 2008, has a severe staff shortage. With 25 employment positions vacant, the complex can rely at a maximum on the efforts of six doctors. But that is only according to the register, as two are on deputation to Kushtia. On an average day another two will be away from the hospital or on leave. The stark reality is that the complex commonly relies on just two on- duty doctors to attend to patients.
Patient numbers meanwhile are overflowing. Along with an over-capacity 80 inpatients, the complex attracts around 200 outpatients daily. With no other option, the hospital has unofficially employed several medical assistants, who even prescribe medicine in doctors' names.
The Daily Star observed the chamber of one of the doctors, Dr Mithun Kumar Chakrabortee, to find at about 2:30 p.m., 45 patients were waiting for a consultation.
According to Dr Chakrabortee, he had already attended to about another 45 patients since his chamber opened at 10 a.m.
“How can I give my patients due medical attention?” Dr Chakrobortee asks. “That is the proper meaning of treatment.”
The complex has no senior medical consultant, no senior orthopaedic surgeon, no junior orthopaedic consultant, no junior gynaecologist, no junior cardiologist, no junior anaesthetist and no emergency medical officer. These positions have been vacant for a long time. There is also no ear, nose and throat specialist and no eye or skin specialists, according to hospital authorities. They do have a junior dentist but he has no work due to the absence of a dental surgeon.
Despite an operation theatre being constructed in 2008 it remains but a showpiece under lock and key, with no operation being performed there due to the lack of staff.
Moreover, although the health complex has an ambulance there is no budget for fuel.
Patients must cover fuel costs for ambulance services.
The only x-ray machine meanwhile has been in a state of disrepair since 2012.
“It's very difficult to run the hospital with such a small number of doctors,” says upazila health officer Akul Uddin. “We do our best to provide good service but the shortage of doctors, staff and equipment makes it all but impossible.”
Kushtia's civil surgeon Dr Mustafizur Rahman says he is trying to appoint doctors to the hospital and will do so as soon as possible.