Jails desperate for doctors
As doctors are unwilling to work in jails, the Directorate of Prisons proposed the government to allow appointment of all doctors in jails on deputation basis and with special facilities.
The existing laws allow jail authorities to appoint 50 percent doctors directly while the rest are appointed through deputation from the health ministry.
The Directorate of Prisons also proposed the government to change some regulations regarding doctors' appointments in jails.
Meanwhile, considering the lack of doctors and proper treatment facilities, the Directorate of Health initiated temporary treatment facilities for prisoners in different jails.
Currently, as few as 17 doctors, all appointed through deputation, are on hand for around 86,000 inmates in 67 jails of the country.
None of the prisons and jail hospitals has nurses or ambulances. Convicts sentenced to rigorous imprisonments are randomly assigned to take care of patients when the situation requires a nurse.
Sources said the jail in Dhaka has a 172-bed jail hospital and it is always crowded with 250-300 sick prisoners.
Most of the jails have no hospitals and they only have paramedics and a sick room for prisoners. As many as 55 jails have no doctors at all.
According to sources, the Dhaka Central Jail hospital has four doctors while 11 others are posted at different central jail hospitals. Two doctors are assigned to the two former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, kept at makeshift jails on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises.
There are 77 posts of doctors in jails across the country for treating 27,000 prisoners. As the number of prisoners is always high, there should be more than 230 doctors for the 86,000 inmates, according to the table of organisation and equipment (TOE) of jails.
Sources said despite the severe crisis, doctors posted at different jails do not want to stay there. When they are deputed to the home ministry from the health ministry they miss the deputation allowances, opportunity of going abroad, private practice opportunity, housing and postings as per their desires.
However, Additional Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Col Md Ashraful Islam Khan, also a doctor, told The Daily Star, "Recently, the government decided to provide jail doctors with 20 percent deputation allowance."
"We have asked the government to provide them with the non-practicing allowance, houses and other incentives and we are hopeful that the government would consider the requirements soon," he said.
A doctor at Dhaka Central Jail told The Daily Star, "Doctors do not want to come here as we do not get any incentives, deputation allowances and rations. Besides, the jail code does not allow non-practicing allowances."
Meanwhile, the Directorate of Health initiated treatment of sick prisoners once a week. Doctors from medical college hospitals would treat the prisoners. Where there is no medical college hospital, the district civil surgeon would form a team for the purpose.
Col Ashraful, also in-charge of the jail administration, said, "It is a temporary service until required doctors are appointed."
Deputy Inspector General (DIG-Prisons) Maj Shamsul Haider Siddique said, "As there are no ambulances, we have to carry sick prisoners to hospitals on police vans or other vehicles without medical support."
The table of organisation and equipment of jails does not include nurses. There is no way to appoint nurses, he said.