After 72-hour ultimatum, health director sues illegal medical establishments

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The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on Saturday launched a campaign against illegal hospitals and diagnostic centers across the country after issuing a 72-hour ultimatum.

On the first day of the campaign, he cordoned off and fined at least 88 medical institutions in Dhaka, Natore, Chuadanga, Tangail, Sylhet, Pabna, Chattogram and other districts for not having licenses – the prerequisite for run a health service.

Earlier on May 26, health authorities asked all illegal health establishments to close their activities within 72 hours. All registered facilities have been instructed to update their licenses within a stipulated timeframe in order to remain operational.

“The main objective of the campaign is to register illegal medical establishments. Although registration is an ongoing process, conducting campaigns bears great fruit,” a senior executive told The Business Standard. He wished to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Before 2020, the number of registered hospitals, clinics and private diagnostics across the country was just 4,000. The figure has now risen to 10,000 thanks to drives, he added in a sarcastic note .

Authorities conducted such a campaign for the first time in November 2018 and for the second time in August 2020. Over a hundred medical facilities were cordoned off during the two campaigns.

“We are campaigning [the latest one] based on data provided by divisional commissioners and civil surgeons at the district level,” said DGHS Director (Hospitals and Clinics) Mohammad Belal Hossain.

Those who had already applied for licenses and met the conditions would soon get licenses, he told TBS, adding that authorities would carry out such campaigns regularly.

“Hospitals that do not have a license and have not applied for one will be sealed off in phases.”

As of November 2020, the country had some 20,000 private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers, according to management, of which 10,893 establishments had renewed licenses, some 6,000 were under inspection by authorities and the rest, about 3,000, did not apply. for licenses.

Why trips are casual

Although the health directorate waged campaigns against the illegal operation of hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers, it did not pursue its campaigns, which paved the way for further irregularities.

Officials said there were four main reasons – lack of manpower, negligence by local health authorities, weak security of health administrators and abuse of political power – behind the failure.

To ease the registration process and enable the sector to demonstrate better compliance, the government introduced an online registration system in 2018. Four years later, many are still unregistered.

“The DGHS raid on illegal private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers in one season is not normal. And it is not working, indeed,” said Syed Abdul Hamid, a professor at the Institute of in Health Economics from the University of Dhaka.

“Immediately after the drives, the sealed hospitals resume their activities by all means.”

He told TBS that it is not usual for a hospital to operate in an upazila, district or divisional town without having a license. “There are civilian surgeons and health officials, and they have to enforce it.”

“Civilian surgeons and health officials should be provided with adequate manpower so that they can oversee all medical facilities within their jurisdiction. Then there will be no illegal hospital or clinic .”

The health economics professor explained that one needs to have 19 to 20 licenses to qualify for a hospital license and these are also needed for renewal, which is time consuming and very complicated.

He suggested a one-stop service for licensing hospitals, clinics or diagnostic centers.

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