The hospital meant for treating infectious diseases did not come to any use in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic
- Hospital is almost abandoned due to long neglect and various crises because of "bureaucratic complications"
- No medical equipment, not even an X-ray machine
- There is also an acute manpower crisis
- Health department planned to use it for coronavirus treatment, but moved away due to lack of equipment, manpower
- In 58 years, space of the hospital decreased from 10 acres to 1.7 acres
Sylhet Infectious Disease Hospital stands in name only.
The specialised hospital did not come to any use even when highly contagious Covid-19 was wreaking havoc in May and the coronavirus dedicated 100-bed Shaheed Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital in Sylhet was overwhelmed with patients while other hospitals in the city were also refusing to admit patients.
There were several incidents of patients dying on the way to different hospitals in the city.
The Department of Health initially planned to use the hospital for coronavirus treatment, however, it moved away from the plan.
Anisur Rahman, assistant director of health, Sylhet, said the hospital could not be used to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients as it lacked adequate manpower and necessary equipment such as ICUs and ventilators.
This has led to a pertinent question — what is the function of an infectious disease hospital?
People concerned said the hospital is almost abandoned due to long neglect and various crises, including bureaucratic complications.
They also said due to the dual control – the civil surgeon and the director of Osmani Medical College Hospital – it was not possible to take necessary steps to renovate the hospital. Initially, the hospital was run under the direct supervision of the Department of Health.
Established in 1962 on a 10-acre land, Sylhet Infectious Diseases Hospital was originally named as Cholera Hospital.
The hospital was built in a designated site outside the city at that time for the treatment of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, tetanus, chickenpox, rabies, tetanus, measles, mumps, etc.
Fifty-eight years on, the number of beds in the hospital remains the same but the amount of space has decreased.
Although the amount of land at the time of establishment was 10 acres, at present the land area has come down to only 1.07 acres.
Various government departments have occupied the hospital's land. The Sadar upazila playground has also been constructed on four decimals of the land of the hospital.
Numerous establishments have been set up around the hospital. There are also allegations that influential groups have taken over much of the hospital's land.
An ambulance was added to the hospital last year. Apart from this ambulance, there is no equipment for diagnosis and treatment, not even an X-ray machine. There is also an acute manpower crisis.
Talking to some staff members of the hospital, it has been learned that the number of posts sanctioned in this hospital is 45. However, 63 percent of the sanctioned posts are currently lying vacant.
At present, only 17 people are working in the hospital.
Whereas a senior consultant, a junior consultant, two medical officers and a pathologist are supposed to be at the hospital, there are only two doctors employed as medical officers.
Although a doctor is assigned as a junior consultant, he is currently working at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital as he is a gynaecologist.
The hospital has three medical technologist posts but all three are vacant. The post of the steward is vacant. The hospital has five senior staff nurses but three of the four posts of assistant staff nurses are vacant.
There is also a crisis of manpower in administrative positions. There are six vacancies against seven posts sanctioned for the administration of the hospital. Although one office assistant cum computer operator and six office assistants are supposed to be there, the administrative activities of the whole hospital are being run with only one office assistant.
Medical Officer of the hospital Ehsanun Zaman Khan said the main problem of the hospital is manpower shortage. Apart from this, there is no facility for diagnostic tests. The hospital has four oxygen cylinders but no central oxygen system.
He said the hospital needed an ICU or ventilation replacement but no action had been taken. However, the authorities have been spoken to and they have assured to take necessary action.
Brigadier General Yunusur Rahman, director of Osmani Medical College Hospital, could not be reached for comment.
Himanshu Lal Roy, deputy director of the hospital, said due to the dual administration here, no steps have been taken in any matter starting from manpower.
Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital has recently hired an ambulance and driver for the Infectious Disease Hospital.
"During my tenure as a civil surgeon, I contacted the higher officials several times and wrote two or three times. There is some delay in the necessary development of this hospital in the current coronavirus situation, which will come under a single administration very soon.
The Department of Health initiated Covid-19 treatment in a private hospital in Sylhet under government management, and initially, selected Mount Adora Hospital. However, after the news spread, angry locals demanded that corona patients cannot be treated at hospitals in their area.