The health ministry and health directorate are at loggerheads over signing of a deal with Regent Hospital after the disturbing discovery of the hospital's involvement in issuing fake Covid-19 test results.
Neither the ministry nor the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is now taking the blame.
The DGHS signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Regent in late March, turning it into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, in a ceremony attended by Health Minister Zahid Maleque and many high officials.
The MoU was signed even though the DGHS knew that the hospital's licence had expired years ago.
Amid widespread criticism, the DGHS in a statement on Saturday said that it was directed by higher authorities at the health ministry to sign the MoU.
The health ministry yesterday asked the director general of DGHS to explain in three working days what his office meant by "directed by higher authorities".
The health services division of the ministry sent the letter signed by a deputy secretary. The letter wanted to know what was being considered while the deal was inked.
Health ministry sources said the officials searched the records and found that there was no correspondence between the ministry and DGHS regarding the deal with Regent.
"We didn't get any correspondence regarding the MoU with Regent Hospital. There is correspondence regarding the MoUs signed with Anwar Khan Model Hospital and Holy Family Hospital," an official told The Daily Star wishing not to be named.
"We are not responsible for the MoU, yet they [DGHS] blamed us. The ministry is going to issue another letter asking them to explain what the basis of their claim is."
Another official said the hospital was supposed to treat the Covid-19 infected people as per the MoU. But the DGHS later allowed it to do tests.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday declined to comment on the DGHS claim.
He, however, told this newspaper that the DGHS had the power to approve a hospital or laboratory and could issue or cancel their licences.
"After preparing the agreement [with Regent], they [DGHS] requested me to join the signing ceremony and I, like the other guests, was present at the ceremony," he said.
"They called us after preparing the agreement [papers]. We were just present as guests."
DGHS Director General Prof Abul Kalam Azad did not answer his phone or reply texts when The Daily Star tried to contact him.
On July 7, a Rab mobile court led by Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam raided Regent Hospital's Uttara branch and sealed it off on charges of issuing fake Covid-19 test results and collecting money from patients illegally.
The hospital issued more than 10,000 coronavirus test reports. Around 4,200 of the tests were real. The rest of the reports were issued without testing, Rab said.
On July 8, the same Rab team sealed off the hospital's Mirpur branch.
The hospital's licence expired in 2014 and was never renewed.
Law enforcers claim that they have been looking for Regent Hospital owner Mohammad Shahed, who, according to Rab, is a fraudster.
Shahed is facing around 32 cases for murder, money laundering, embezzlement of public money, and other charges. Most of the cases were filed under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
NO EXPLANATION FROM DGHS
Following the raid, the health service division on July 7 asked the DGHS to cancel the MoU with Regent immediately and to explain how Regent got permission to run as a Covid-19 hospital when it didn't have proper licence.
The division also asked the DGHS to launch an investigation into the allegation regarding the fake Covid-19 test results and the collection of samples from people's homes violating the MoU.
Contacted, Muhibur Rahman, additional secretary (hospital) of health division, said they had yet to receive the explanation from the DGHS.