Pabna mental hospital: SOS from a troubled facility
Pabna Mental Hospital has been struggling to provide services to patients for at least two months due to the lack of supply of necessary food, medicine and other materials.
The situation of the country's oldest mental health facility turned so grave that Dr Roton Kumar Roy, acting director of the hospital, issued an office order on Sunday to stop the admission of new patients.
The order, however, was withdrawn yesterday following the assurance from health directorate of providing necessary support.
Besides, the health ministry has appointed Dr Shafkat Wahid, associate professor of Rajshahi Medical College's psychiatry department, as the new director of the hospital.
Officials of the 500-bed state-run hospital, however, fear that the plight of the patients would not be alleviated anytime soon.
Visiting the facility yesterday, this correspondent found patients were going back after failing to get admitted while some others were found released from the hospital.
Billal Hossain, 40, from Sirajganj Sadar upazila, was released yesterday but, according to his family members, he was not fully cured.
"The hospital authorities called me on Sunday to release my husband. But he has not fully recovered yet. I am taking him back home," said China Begum, wife of Billal.
The doctors have prescribed four medicines for three months for her husband, she said. "The hospital authority provided only one medicine while I had to buy the rest."
A woman came to the hospital outdoor from Chapainwabganj yesterday morning with her mentally challenged daughter.
"Outdoor doctors prescribed three months' medication but refused to admit my daughter," said Saifura Begum. "They provided us with just one of the medicines."
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Dr Roton Kumar said there had been no supply of food and medicine in the hospital for the last two months due to the legal battle with a contractor over the tender process.
"The court issued a stay order in June this year, so we could not invite fresh bidding for the supply of food, medicine and other necessities for the patients," he said.
"We are managing food for the patients from local traders through vouchers as per the arrangement made by a hospital committee. I'm entitled to spend Tk 10 lakh a year by vouchers. But in the last two months, I already used up vouchers worth over Tk 37 lakh without paying any amount."
Dr Roton said he had issued Sunday's office order, fearing departmental action for the expense beyond the limit. "After getting the ministry's assurance, I have withdrawn the order."
Regarding the legal battle, he said, "We have come to know that the court stay has been removed but we are yet to get the official papers to this end. If we get the documents, we can go for the fresh bidding but the total process requires time."
Dr Masud Rana, the resident psychiatrist of the mental hospital, said, "Patients who are admitted here get specialised treatment and food. Due to lack of supplies, we are failing to provide proper services."
He added, "There is no medicine supply at this moment. We are giving treatment with medicine from the Department of Social Services. That's why medicine supply for outdoor patients was cut."
Contacted, Dr Md Shafiur Rahman, director-in-charge (hospitals and clinics) at the health directorate, said, "The ministry and the directorate are well aware of the issue regarding the hospital. We have taken the necessary steps for its smooth operation. Everything will be okay shortly."