Staff Reporter :
Patients seeking treatment under private hospitals have been left in the lurch amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Many patients have complained that even if they have symptoms like fever, cold and cough, they are not able to get treatment for other diseases even after visiting these hospitals.
Even treatment at many private hospitals and clinics has also been shut down.
In this situation, the government warned that private hospitals will not be allowed to turn away emergency patients. Moreover, if a private hospital wants to refer a patient to a Covid-19 dedicated hospital, it has to make sure that the dedicated hospital will accept the patient.
In default, the Health Ministry will revoke the licence of the private clinic and take other necessary action against them, said a circular on Monday signed by the Health Ministry's Deputy Secretary Mohammad Iqbal.
The circular was sent to the director general of the health directorate, all divisional directors of the directorate, private hospitals, the Clinic Owners' Association and the Bangladesh Medical Association.
"It was reported that most of the private medical facilities are turning away patients with other health issues amid the coronavirus outbreak. Besides, a number of such patients who were denied treatment by hospitals eventually succumbed to their ailments," said Additional Secretary to the Health Ministry Mohammad Habibur Rahman.
He said hospitals cannot turn away any critical or regular patient. Their refusal is totally unacceptable when the nation needs medical care more than ever before. They will not be allowed
to cash in on issues related to life and death. Private medicals assured us from the very beginning they would treat non-Covid patients. But they breached the promise in several cases. Therefore, we issued the written instruction about revoking their medical license," he added.
The circular said that normal patients are facing a hassle in getting treatment at private hospitals since the detection of coronavirus in Bangladesh. On top of that, regular kidney dialysis patients are being refused treatments by their respective hospitals.
The circular mandates separate arrangements for Covid-19 suspected patients in all private hospitals. "Private clinics will not be allowed to refy treatment to any patient if they have the facility to treat the patient." it read.
The circular also said the private hospitals will have to ensure admission of a Covid-19 patient at the government hospitals if they want to refer anyone. It said that medical care of patients who are undergoing kidney treatment for a long time must continue if he or she is not tested positive to the virus. Mohammad Habibur Rahman said if the government hospitals do not obey the instruction as mentioned in the circular, the hospital directors will be brought to book. ?
" Public hospitals have also been instructed not to deny treatment of non-Covid patients. If the hospitals do not obey the instruction as mentioned in the circular, the hospital directors will be brought to book," he added.
However, Prof Nazrul Islam, former Vice-Chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, believes that it would be tough for the government to force private hospitals to comply with the instructions in the circular. He said the Health Ministry has requested the private hospital several times. Besides, the Prime Minister herself gave stern warnings to the hospital owners.? ?
"But they did not heed the warnings," said Prof Nazrul. He opined the government now should get tough against those who are reluctant to follow the instructions.
However, the hospital owners said that without specific guidelines and coordination, the situation could not be improved by mere threats.
They said despite several promises regarding treatment in private hospitals,? a status quo remains of treatment as neither side (the government and private hospital owners) is taking responsibility for it. The ordinary patients are the victims. A 70-year-old man with a heart condition was rushed to three private hospitals in Dhaka by his relatives but could not be admitted.
About a week ago, Parveen Hassan, one of his relatives, said that they were finally able to see their doctor at the Government Heart Institute Hospital after much effort from a higher level. "We went to three hospitals but we didn't get admission," she said, quoting the hospital authorities, "Since you have a fever we won't admit your patient. But my patient didn't have corona."
"Later we took him to Mugda Hospital and had to make a lot of references and calls from high level to get him admitted. My patient was not corona infected. He had a heart attack."
Mobin Khan, President of the private medical college and hospital owners' association, said, "Licensing is not the answer. I have not received a single complaint from any of the private medical colleges and hospitals that they are not providing medical services or admitting patients."
But those who go to private hospitals with complex diseases, including heart disease and kidney problems, are told to show coronavirus test reports first - then the patient will be seen or admitted.
Commenting on the allegations, Mobin Khan, President of the private medical college and hospital owners' association, said, "It is not reasonable at all. Many patients have been admitted to reputed private hospitals and some of them were Covid-19 positive."
He said later doctors and nurses have been infected and that's why private hospitals ask for coronavirus test first.
The private medical college has 69 hospitals. Besides, there are more than 10,000 hospitals and clinics in the private sector across the country.
But these hospitals are still receiving treatment for various diseases including heart and kidney diseases. There are reports of many hospitals and clinics being closed.
Dr. Md. Moniruruzzaman Bhuiyan, President of the owners' association of private hospital clinics, also said that accusations were being made.
Dr. Lenin Chowdhury, a public health expert and head of a private hospital, said, "The administration has not been able to coordinate with the public and private hospitals to implement coronavirus disaster preparedness.
An additional secretary to the Food Ministry, Gautam Aich Sarker, died on Thursday night. The government official was suffering from kidney disease, and was turned away by a number of private hospitals when he went there for admission.
Gautam's daughter Susmita Aich alleged that her father apparently died without treatment after he managed to get admitted to the Kurmitola General Hospital.