Rajshahi City Hospital, one of the few big hospitals in Rajshahi city with modern facilities, has been shut down for more than one year despite the Covid-19 pandemic due to the negligence of the authorities concerned.
The city has already become one of the hotspots of Covid-19 infections in the country and most of the hospitals there are struggling to provide treatment for the rising number of Covid-19 patients.
People concerned said if the hospital was open during this horrible situation of the pandemic, it would have been possible to provide medical services for many more patients.
The hospital was leased to a private company named Celltron two years ago. In March last year, when the pandemic hit the country, the city corporation ordered to halt the operation of the hospital to make it a specialised Covid-19 hospital.
After three months of closure, the city corporation asked the company to start operation again as other hospitals were selected to treat Covid-19 patients. But the company did not reopen the hospital citing huge losses. The hospital has been closed since then.
As a result of the closure of the hospital, 65 people including four medical officers, six nurses, lab technicians, ultrasonologists and dentists lost their jobs.
Medical equipment producing company Celltron leased the hospital in July 2019 from Rajshahi City Corporation for Tk1 lakh per month. However, the company increased the price of the ticket for the outdoor department from Tk10 to Tk100. Earlier, pregnant women could get maternity related services from the hospital for 10 months with only Tk75. The company also had stopped that service.
According to the city corporation sources, the 25-bed Rajshahi City Hospital was built in 1995 in the Raninagar area of the city to give medical treatment to general people at a low cost. At first it was named the Labour Hospital. The name of the hospital was changed in 1999.
The activities of the outdoor department of the hospital were inaugurated on 16 May 2000. Maternity and indoor activities were introduced in the following year. At that time, a patient could buy a ticket for Tk10 and get treatment for a week with medicine.
Rajshahi City Corporation Chief Health Officer FAM Anjuman Ara Begum said, "On an average, 8 to 10 patients were always admitted to the hospital for treatment. And around 60-70 patients used to take treatment in the outdoor department."
ABM Sharif Uddin, CEO of Rajshahi City Corporation, said, "At the beginning of the pandemic, the Celltron authorities were asked to stop medical services for several months. Because at that time the plan was to make the city hospital a specialised hospital for Covid-19. But later ID Hospital and Mission Hospital were selected for that purpose. When the Celltron authorities were asked to reopen the hospital again, they left citing losses."
He said, "The mayor has already spoken to councillors to reopen the hospital. The hospital will be opened under the management of the city corporation or it will be leased. The mayor has a plan to construct two more buildings in the hospital. There are also plans to build a link road to the Zeropoint-Talaimari main road to make it easy for the patients to come to the hospital."
The official said that the works have not started yet due to the Covid-19 situation.
However, Celltron officials said that the company counted a huge loss during the beginning of the pandemic as they had to close the hospital on city corporation's order. They also cited other problems in running the hospital.
Sheikh Mohammad Fauzul Mubin, managing director of Celltron, said, "In the three months of closure at the beginning of the pandemic we incurred a loss of Tk36 lakh. However, the road in front of the hospital was not good. As a result, no senior reputed doctor in Rajshahi wanted to come here. The main patients of the hospital are pregnant women. They also find it difficult to come here crossing the road."
He said that the city corporation promised to renovate the road but they did not do it.
Fauzul Mubin said that the hospital was leased from the city corporation for three years. They had renovated the entire hospital after taking the lease and purchased and installed modern equipment. For this they spent Tk3 crore.
The hospital was equipped with 20 modern beds, a cabin with AC, and an operation theatre. But both doctors and patients were reluctant to come there due to the connecting road, he said.
"In the first year we have run the hospital well. Initially, the outdoor department charged a fee of Tk100. But after three months it was made free for the patients. Our business focus was the indoor department. But as the number of patients decreased, it was not possible to earn the money that we invested," said Fauzul Mubin.
"All our equipment is still lying in the hospital. We have applied to the city corporation to return the equipment but yet to get an answer," he added.