The Habiganj Public Works Department has not been able to decide in as long as two months whether they would tile or paint the district PCR lab floor, leaving Covid-19 tests in the district in limbo.
The Habiganj people have to go to Sylhet for the tests and wait for at least one to one and a half weeks to get a test report after submitting a sample.
Earlier, there were complications in deciding on the location of the PCR lab. Eventually it was decided the lab would be set up in the abandoned "infection ward" of Habiganj Sadar Modern Hospital.
The work order was given to contractor Jalal Enterprise on 30 June to redo the infection ward and make it suitable for the lab.
About Tk45 lakh was allocated for the work from World Bank funding. Although the work was scheduled for completion by 15 July, the contractor was able to complete 85% of the work by then.
Ripon Deb, sub-divisional engineer in charge of the work, said, "Although 16 by 18-inch homogeneous tiles were supposed to be used in the floor of the lab, the decision was delayed due to the microbiology department of Sheikh Hasina Medical College demanding 24 by 24-inch mirror polished tiles."
A source at the Public Works Department says engineers of the department concerned are making varying decisions about what will be used on the floor. At one point it was decided to use Epoxy (a kind of sealing floor resin). Later they decided against that and planned to install tiles. But even after two months they could not reach a decision.
Work on six small rooms and three or four washrooms, installation of plastic boards on the ceiling, electrical work, and other ancillary works are in the final stages.
The local representative of the contracting company, Azizur Rahman, said, "In order to complete the work in time, workers are working day and night, and 85% of the work has been completed. But confusion over what the floor and walls should be is delaying the rest of the work."
Civil Surgeon Mostafizur Rahman said, "I don't know about the PCR lab." He advised contacting the Department of Microbiology of Sheikh Hasina Medical College.
Dr Arifunnabi, Department of Microbiology of the medical college, said, "First the work of the Public Works Department should be completed, then the machinery will come, manpower will be recruited and the PCR testing will start."
Wahidul Islam, executive engineer of the Public Works Department, said, "The PCR lab is being funded by the World Bank. The microbiology lab is an important and sensitive area for diagnosis, so the decision about the floor took a bit longer. The work of installing mirror polished tiles on the floor will be completed soon."
He could not give a satisfactory answer to the question as to why the decision was not taken earlier.