When parts of the ceiling of a paediatric ward falls on child patients and their attendants, it cannot be dismissed as an accident. The five children and four attendants who were injured in a ward of Noakhali General Hospital on Wednesday when a part of the ceiling collapsed on them, are victims of criminal negligence on the part of the hospital authorities. The hospital was built in 1968 and had been declared abandoned three years ago. In fact all three buildings of the hospital are in a dilapidated state and this was known to the authorities responsible. Last year two nurses were injured when part of the ceiling in another building collapsed. After such obvious warnings, how could the hospital authorities allow it to go on operating, risking the lives of patients, attendants and staff?
The excuse that it continued to operate because there was no alternative space is completely unacceptable. Common sense dictates that such risky buildings should have been sealed off long time ago, whether alternative space had been found or not. It is only after this horrific accident that the hospital authorities sealed off the building and relocated them to another building. But why did they wait until this happened? And who will guarantee that the building they have been moved into is not free from such risk?
This kind of apathy towards basic maintenance of crucial infrastructure such as government school buildings and hospitals has come at a high price, namely deaths and injuries of people, including little children. Are human lives so unworthy to the authorities concerned that they allow such buildings to remain dilapidated for years on end? We urge the concerned ministries to immediately conduct a survey to identify these risky buildings, seal them off and make sure they are repaired so that they are safe again. If it is a question of having adequate funds, special budget allocations must be made for such maintenance and temporary relocation.