Dahagram-Angarpota 10-bed Hospital on two acres of land has everything--a one-storied hospital building, staff quarters, garden, signboards and even patients.
What it lacks are medical and administrative staffs to provide regular healthcare services to the inhabitants of Dahagram union, an enclave of Bangladesh located in Indian Territory and connected to the main land through Tin Bigha Corridor in Lalmonirhat’s Patgram upazila.
In only one out of three visits to the health facility in October, this correspondent saw a sub-assistant community medical officer and a ward boy attending to the patients. Even then, the hospital collapsible gate was not opened on time at eight o’clock in the morning on that day.
Aynal Shaikh, a resident of Dahagram claimed that he came to the hospital six times in the last two months but did not see any medical officer.
“Only once, I met a sub-assistant medical officer, who prescribed some medicine. The hospital’s cook gave me the medicine from the facility’s store,” he alleged, adding that he has been suffering from bronchitis and stomach pain.
The hospital is the only health facility in Dahagram and the octogenarian cannot afford to go to a private clinic or the government-run upazila health complex 16 kilometres away, he said.
Unlike Aynal, Fazar Ali, 48, could not wait for a doctor to show up when he brought his ailing wife to the hospital on October 22 morning.
“I waited for an hour but did not find any doctor or nurse, so I hired a rickshaw van and took her to Patgram Upazila Health Complex,” he said.
Dahagram Hospital was built at a cost of Tk 12.84 between 1988 and 1992.
Equipped with an operation theatre and a high-powered generator for uninterrupted power supply, the hospital started operation in 1995 with funding from Asian Development Bank and ran full-swing with ultrasound, X-ray and ambulance facility till 2000.
From 2001, the decline of the hospital began after it came under full government control and from March 2012 the hospital stopped admitting patients.
It now only runs outdoor services seven-days of the week from 8:00am to 2:00pm, informed Dr Kashem Ali, civil surgeon in Lalmonirhat.
According to the Directorate General Health Services’ registry, only 13 out of the 25 sanctioned posts, which includes four medical officers, four senior and four assistant nurse, one pharmacist, one medical technologist, two ayas and two ward boys, are filled up.
Dr Kashem said, “Of the four physicians, two have been unauthorised absent for the last five years. I have informed higher authorities about it.”
He said one of the remaining medical officers, Dr Nur Arefin Kallol, has been deputed to the Patgram Upazila Health Complex and the other, Dr Abu Bakkar Siddque, visits the hospital, when not on leave.
Hospital sources said Dr Abu Bakkar Siddque practices in a private clinic in Rangpur.
Attempts to contact him several times on October 23 and October 24, failed as he didn’t answer his mobile phone.
Other than the medical officers, currently two sub-assistant community medical officer, two nurses, one pharmacist, one pharmacist-cum-compounder, two ward boys, two cooks, two cleaners, a night guard and two office assistants are posted at the hospital, said Zillur Rahman, sub-assistant community medical officer.
A local inhabitant was temporary recruited for a monthly salary of Tk 3,000 to work in the hospital garden, he added.
This correspondent saw the temporary recruit opening the hospital gate, cleaning the corridors, helping the patients get medicine and also guarding the hospital at night.
The only permanent staff, who lives in the hospital quarters with his family, is Mizanur Rahman, one of the ward boys.
All the four-room quarters meant for the medical officers remain vacant throughout the year, he said.
Senior Nurse Rehana Khatun, who lives in the upazila headquarters, said she does not prefer living in the hospital quarter as it is in a remote area.
“I try to come to my workplace regularly but get delayed due to the distance,” she said.
Dahagram Union Parishad Chairman Kamal Hossain alleged that the doctors and other staffs of the hospital are seen only when high government officials come to visit the area, otherwise they mostly remain absent.
“I have complained about it to the upazila health officer and civil surgeon several times but nothing happened,” he claimed.
Civil Surgeon Dr Kashem Ali told The Daily Star that he has sent show cause notice to the hospital staffs who remain absent and steps will be taken against them.