Kamal Hossain Talukder
Sexagenarian Ahsan Ullah of a Srinagar village in Munshiganj, along with his daughter, came to Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital for getting the medical test of his daughter done. The girl was suffering from severe stomach pain.
The 60-plus man deposited Tk 220 for an ultra-sonogram (USG) of his 28-year-old daughter Maksuda Begum at the government hospital—also known as Mitford Hospital—and popular among the poor people for low-cost treatment and medical tests.
But Ahsan Ullah had the first blow when an on-duty doctor at the radiology and imaging department told him, “We have many patients waiting…please come tomorrow.”
Frustrated after a long wait since dawn, Ahsan rushed to the doctor in the emergency department, who suggested him to request the ultra-sonogram department citing the emergency state of his daughter, an appendicitis patient.
The on-duty physician at the radiology department, even after being requested repeatedly, asked Ahsan to come the following day.
As Maksuda’s condition went deteriorating, poor farmer Ahsan then had the USG report of his daughter done at a nearby lab at a cost of TK 800.
He got the second shock when wanted the money [Tk 220] back from the hospital. The department concerned informed that the payment was non-refundable even if the test was not done.
Radiology and imaging department head Farid Ahmed on Mar 22 told bdnews24.com, “On average, 40 or 45 patients give up ultra-sonogram a day even after paying the charge because of the huge rush.”
He said 126 patients quit the test after paying the charge, amounting to about Tk 14,000, in three days.
Patients, thus, waste about Tk 5,000 every day and it goes to the hospital accounts, he said, adding “A USG test costs TK 110 and sometimes TK 220.”
Explaining the reason, he said, “We have the manpower to carry out 100 USG tests as against the average daily demand of 140. As a result, about 40 patients have to go back without having the tests done.”
Asked why the authorities accept money when they cannot do the test, the radiology head said, “The hospital authorities have asked us to complete all ultra-sonograms.”
The hospital’s deputy director Abul Hashem Khan explained it to bdnews24.com in a different way, saying “The problem started after the authorities stopped ‘user fee’ from last May.”
Earlier, 120-130 USG tests were done at the department daily.
Radiology and imaging department assistant professor Mohammad Rubel Hossain told bdnews24.com that doctors, administration and employees would earlier get 50 percent of the user fee.
He, however, did not accept that the problem started after the withdrawal of user fee.
On average, 70 to 80 people would earlier come for the test every day, but the number mounted to as high as 140.
“As the workforce to conduct the test has not been increased, patients have to return without having the USG done,” he said, adding 10 doctors work in two shifts at the department.
Asked to explain the reason for not refunding money even after failing to do the test duly, Hossain said the audit department would not allow that.