An eight-storey building was built for it at a cost of Tk 30.25 crore, but the 250-bed Habiganj Sadar Hospital has yet to start its operations after more than four years of its inauguration.
Inaugurated by the late Mohammed Nasim, the then health minister, on July 20, 2016, the completed building of the hospital has no equipment, nor has it any beds.
Although the '100-bed Habiganj Modern Sadar Hospital' was upgraded to a 250-bed hospital on paper that year, the activities of the hospital are still being conducted in the old building, with the same manpower that is not even adequate for the smaller facility.
Currently, there is a 58-member crew, including the superintendent and 25 physicians, at the hospital amid an increased demand for medical services in the district.
While this correspondent was visiting the hospital recently, Covid-19 vaccination was being administered on the ground floor of the new building. The second and third floors of it were being used for the temporary campus of Habiganj Sheikh Hasina Medical College and the fourth floor was found set aside for conducting surgery.
There were only a handful of beds on the fifth and sixth floors where a designated Covid-19 isolation centre had been set up. However, no patients were seen in isolation there.
While the entire multi-storey building serves no inpatients, even the floors in the wards and hallways of the old hospital building were seen being used to accommodate patients.
Sirajul Islam, 65, of Jatrapasha Mahalla in Baniachang upazila, came to the hospital at night with severe chest pain.
He said that without conducting any examination or administering any primary treatment, the doctors at the emergency transferred him straight to Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital.
Many locals alleged that as soon as seriously ill or injured patients arrive at the hospital, they are sent to hospitals in Sylhet or Dhaka.
Requesting anonymity, several doctors at the hospital said the "250-bed hospital" has acute shortage of staffers and doctors.
The doctors working there do not get any chance to take any break, as the same person has to serve outpatients, inpatients, provide services at '24-hour Emergency Maternity Service Centre' and perform surgeries whenever necessary, they also said.
Tofazzal Sohel, coordinator of 'Shankhubdo Nagorik Andolon', said, "What's the reason for leaving a hospital building unused like this after spending crores of taka? Why isn't its manpower being provided?"
"The health department is not taking the people's problems into account. Such negligence is absolutely unacceptable," he added.
Md Motashirul Islam, chairman of Habiganj Sadar Upazila Parishad and a member of the hospital's management committee, also expressed discontent, as during a recent visit to the hospital, he encountered numerous irregularities, negligence, malfunction of equipment and failure to maintaining proper hygienic atmosphere.
He said two new X-ray machines were installed at the hospital, but those were not found operational.
The ultrasonography machine has been out of order for the last two years, but the authorities did not raise the issue at the meeting of the committee.
And, four years after the inauguration, the health department did not start operations at the new building, he added.
Helal Uddin, the hospital's superintendent, said manpower shortage has been the main reason why its operations at the new building could not be started.
He already wrote to the health department in this regard and he was hopeful of launching services at the new building soon, as the file was at the office of the cabinet secretary, he also said.
Deputy Civil Surgeon Mukhlesur Rahman sought health ministry's intervention in resolving the issues of required work force and medical equipment at the new building.