The rift between the health ministry and the health directorate over the Regent Hospital scam will seriously hurt the government efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, say experts.
The buck-passing not only demonstrates a lack of coordination between the government bodies but also exposes the shady links and corruption in the health care sector.
The government must take action against the people involved and ensure that the agencies engaged in Covid-19 response work in coordination, they added.
"This [the government deal with Regent] was the work of a team. There must be no blame game. This proves the lack of seriousness in the director general and the minister," said Rashid E Mahbub, former president of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA).
"It is the duty of the DG to point out illogical directives from the minister and the minister should also consider that. Negligence is evident on both of their parts," he told The Daily Star.
"Be it corruption or misjudgement, this has to be dug out. But for now, it is more important to work together to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic."
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) signed a memorandum of understanding with Regent in March, turning it into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, in a ceremony attended by Health Minister Zahid Maleque and many high officials.
The DGHS was aware that the hospital's licence had expired six years ago.
On July 7, a Rab mobile court raided Regent Hospital's Uttara branch and sealed it off on charges of issuing fake Covid-19 test certificates and asking money from coronavirus patients illegally.
Amid widespread criticism, the DGHS on Saturday said it was the higher authorities at the health ministry who asked the directorate to sign the MoU.
Enraged, the ministry issued a show-cause notice to the director general of the DGHS to explain in three work days what his office meant by "directed by higher authorities".
Officials said the rift made the situation complicated for both parties.
They said the health directorate is working on its explanation, they said.
"Preparing the answer is underway. It will be submitted within the deadline," DGHS spokesperson Ayesha Akhter told The Daily Star yesterday.
Director General Prof Abul Kalam Azad did not answer the phone calls made by this newspaper for the second consecutive day yesterday.
Visiting a hospital in Narayanganj, Abdul Mannan, secretary of the health service division, told reporters, "A picture of rampant corruption in the health sector is coming out. You have seen that we took action against Regent Hospital and JKG Health Care. The DG of the health directorate has been issued a show-cause letter."
Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, said, "We are already in a standoff. Neither the DGHS nor the ministry appears to be functional now. People are not getting treatment at the hospitals. What a situation!"
"Is it possible for only the minister or the DG to approve such a deal? There are many people involved. It is also not the only issue with the health sector, there are many others," he said.
"When the whole system is polluted, the removal of the DG or the minister will not make much difference. We heard about many incidents of corruption in recent months, but did not see any steps taken."
Prof Nazrul, also former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, suggested that there should be a commission to look into the allegations of anomalies in the health sector over the years.