The committee vented anger over corruption in medical purchase and said this has been depriving rural people of healthcare rights
Organised syndicates control purchases of medical equipment for government hospitals across the country, observed a parliamentary standing committee.
The syndicates include contractors, officials and hospital employees who determine what machinery will be purchased at what prices.
The committee said those machines, brought at abnormally high-prices, usually stop working within three years of purchase.
The Standing Committee on Ministry of Planning vented anger over the corruption and observed that such corruption and irregularities are depriving people of their healthcare rights.
Though the meeting was held in December, minutes of the meeting was published on last Wednesday.
Member of Parliament from Magura-2 Biren Sikder told the meeting how a syndicate of dishonest contractors in collaboration with hospital officers and employees purchased heavy medical equipment for the 250-bed hospital at his constituency.
"Dishonest contractors syndicated and took part in the bidding. They collectively tempered the pricing," he said.
"The medical equipment purchase was unnecessary and the prices are way higher than the market."
Member of Parliament (MP) Rowshan Ara Mannan said, "The medical sector has become a hostage to illicit syndicates."
She pointed out that most of the government healthcare facilities in Dhaka do not have specialist physicians at emergency departments.
Whereas MP Adiba Anjum Mita alleged that some local political leaders are involved in low-quality equipment supply. The equipment stop working soon, forcing the poor to rush for private clinics.
Chairman of the standing committee Abul Kalam Azad MP, who presided over the meeting, presented the scenario of his constituency – Jamalpur's Bakshiganj and Dewanganj upazila health complexes.
At zila or upazila health complexes, the x-ray machines, ambulances, pathology machines are either on the fritz or too old to use, he said.
"In some cases, many hospitals do not have the bare minimums – equipment for a primary health check-up. Doctor and manpower shortage make thing worse."
Though the number of medical service seekers has risen, he said, as life expectancy increased. But, people are not getting proper healthcare at government hospitals.
"And this the common picture in rural Bangladesh," Azad added.
He presented the progress of ongoing 18 projects under the Health Service Division and expressed disappointment at the overall progress.
Lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury, also a member of the committee, narrated the poor scenario of Mugda General Hospital at his area. "Most of the equipment stopped working within three years of the procurement. Maintenance is getting costlier than the purchase."
Abul Kalam Azad, the member of the Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division of the Planning Commission, said: "Syndication is at the heart of corruption in the medical sector."
The Socio-Economic Infrastructure Division is responsible for commissioning development projects in the medical sector. Azad said, "Mentioning medical equipment prices should be made mandatory in Public Procurement."
The planning commission member emphasised completing such purchases following the Public Procurement Rules to curb the influence of syndicates or to weaken the illicit groups.
The meeting made several recommendations including enhancing the capacity of the respective engineering departments at hospitals, making it mandatory to submit updates of medical equipment every 15 days and repairing the machines at Mugda, Bakshiganj and Dewanganj upazila health complexes.
Parliamentary standing committees have a key role to ensure parliamentary democracy and accountability, said Planning Minister MA Mannan, while urging the health ministry and its subordinate offices to take the parliamentary committee's recommendations seriously.