While the health secretary says the ongoing drives against anomalies at private healthcare institutions will not stop, the health minister finds the word "drive" objectionable.
Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said action would be taken against any private hospital or clinic if it broke the law, but asked why the measure should be dubbed "drive".
"…Why is it a drive? Can any drive be conducted on hospitals? It is enquiry, which is done there. Drives are conducted in Chittagong Hill Tracts area; terrorists stay there and drives are conducted there," he told reporters in reply to a query at a press briefing at the secretariat.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan in a separate briefing yesterday said ongoing crackdown against anomalies by different private healthcare institutions would go on.
"The drives will not stop for a day, not even for a minute," he told reporters after a meeting with leaders of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) and representatives from private hospitals and clinics at the ministry.
He also said members of a newly-formed taskforce would immediately conduct drives if they receive any allegation against healthcare organisations.
Last week, the health services division of the health ministry sent a letter to the home ministry, asking it to keep law enforcement agencies away from raiding government and private hospitals.
In case the raid is urgent, the letter, requested the ministry to inform the health ministry about it.
Talking about the issue, the health minister said the health ministry had reached a consensus with the home ministry that any measure against irregularities at private healthcare facilities would be taken jointly.
"They will not go anywhere alone; they will discuss with us. We will take them if needed," he said.
The drives against the anomalies at the private hospitals and clinics came after scams and fraudulence by some facilities surfaced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Licences of some of those were found to have expired.
At present, two thirds of the country's over 15,000 private clinics and diagnostic centres are running without any valid licence since 2018. The renewal of licences has been slow since 2018, when the DGHS began "digitalising" the process, according to officials at the health directorate.
Yesterday, the taskforce in its first meeting decided that both the health ministry and the home ministry would jointly conduct any drive against the errant hospitals and clinics from now on.
The members of the taskforce can visit any hospital anytime.
"The meeting has decided to make the licensing and renewal process smoother and bring all the eligible private clinics, diagnostic centres under the licensing system," said Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospitals and clinics) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The meeting held at the Secretariat also decided that all private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres would have to update the DGHS on the status of their licences by August 23.
After getting the information, the authorities might give a timeframe to the facilities running without licence or expired ones to update their status. Actions would be taken if the private hospitals or clinics do not renew their licence after that, said meeting insiders.
The government formed the nine-member taskforce to monitor the progress on Covid-19 prevention activities and operations related to medical activities.
"If any private hospital or clinic does not renew their licence, action will be taken against them," Farid told The Daily Star yesterday. Besides, the authorities may also relax the renewal process, he said.
He said it was also told in the meeting that three officials have to look after licences of around 5,000 clinics and diagnostic centres in Dhaka.
"The meeting has decided to deploy more people in this department to bring pace in work," said Farid.
DGHS sources said on September 4, 2018, a circular was issued hiking the licence issuance fees of private hospitals and clinics from Tk 5,000 to 50,000--2,50,000.
Clinics and diagnostic centres need environmental clearance, employee details, city corporation clearance, tax certificates and other documents to get their licence renewed every year.