Even 10 years after coming into operation, the coronary care unit (CCU) of the 250-bed Jashore General Hospital does not have any advanced treatment of cardiac diseases, which has left patients in the region suffering immensely.
Admitting this to The Business Standard, Touhidul Islam, a doctor at the CCU, said patients are not getting advanced cardiac treatment for lack of required equipment and shortage of manpower.
Sources at the hospital said after the hospital authorities, more than a year ago, had sent a demand letter seeking 78 employees including doctors, nurses, and technicians, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) approved the appointment of 28 employees at the CCU. But they are yet to be appointed.
At the facility, all medical equipment, necessary for different cardiac tests, are non-functional. Although the echocardiogram machine is active, it is not in use for more than one and a half years.
So, patients are being forced to go to private clinics and diagnostic centres for different cardiac tests prescribed by doctors of the hospital.
According to sources, after the construction of the three-storey coronary unit building in 2005, at a cost of Tk5 crore, the unit was inaugurated on 12 October 2006 without requisite manpower.
Due to this, there have been no medical activities at the unit for about three years.
In February 2007, four months after the unit's inauguration, the hospital authorities sent a demand letter to the health ministry seeking the appointment of 24 doctors, 56 nurses and 143 employees; but the ministry did not respond to the demand.
Finally, on 12 July 2009, medical activities at the unit started with the hospital's existing manpower. Since then, the unit is in operation without adequate manpower.
The hospital sources said, at present, there are only two doctors working against 12 posts approved by the DGHS. Besides, the cardiology consultant of the hospital and assistant professor of the Medical College perform additional duties.
But, for lack of equipment, the doctors have no alternative to referring the patients elsewhere for better treatment, if they do not recover with primary treatment.
Seeking anonymity, an assistant to a doctor of the CCU said the echocardiogram test at the hospital has remained inoperative since the beginning of the ongoing Covid pandemic, although the echo machine is usable.
However, the test is conducted if the patient is someone who is familiar with the doctors of the hospital.
According to sources, it costs Tk200 for an echo test at the General Hospital, but at private clinics and diagnostic centres, one has to spend Tk1,500-2,000, which the poor patients can hardly bear.
Similarly, it costs Tk300 for an ETT test in the hospital, while it costs Tk2,500-3,000 at private clinics, which is beyond the means of the poor.
It is learnt that the CCU has 28 beds, but usually, about 100 patients are admitted there. More than 500 patients come to the outdoor department every day for treatment.
Not only Jashore, but patients from Narail, Jhenaidah and Magura also come here for treatment. But, other than an ECG test, no other cardiac test is conducted in the hospital. Most of the time ECG tests are conducted by technicians hired from private clinics.
Most other cardiac tests for all indoor and outdoor patients have to be conducted outside the hospital at private clinics and diagnostic centres. In addition to the extra expenses, the patients face harassment and sufferings, patients and their relatives have alleged.
They also alleged that doctors are not available at the CCU when there is a need. They visit the unit once in the morning but are not available from the afternoon till the next morning. In place of the assistant registrar, an intern is in charge of the emergency department.
Relatives of a patient from Churamankati area of Jashore Sadar upazila said most of the medicines have to be bought from outside. There is no advanced treatment here. All the cardiac tests have to be done outside.
Jashore Citizens Movement leader Iqbal Kabir Zahid said many cardiac patients of the country's south-western region come to the CCU of this hospital, but they do not get any advanced treatment here.
"Considering the plight of the poor patients, I strongly demand the authorities ensure all modern facilities, including oxygen, ventilation, and artificial respiration equipment, needed for critical moments of the cardiac patients," he added.
Dr Akhtaruzzaman, a caregiver at the hospital, said, "The DGHS has been contacted over manpower and equipment for the CCU. A demand letter was sent last August. The authorities have been informed about the damaged equipment. It is really difficult to provide advanced medical services without adequate manpower and modern equipment."
Replying to a query over the echocardiogram machine not being used, he said, "Effective steps will be taken for conducting echo tests regularly at the CCU."