Monday, May 21, 2007

DS Point-Counterpoint: Deaths in Rajshahi hospital

Deaths in Rajshahi hospital

Many patients were seen leaving the hospital yesterday morning after failing to receive any care as four patients had died without any medical care earlier between 12:00 am and 6:30 am. Sima died at around 6:20am"

I write this note with a heavy heart. So forgive me if I sound emotional. In fact, I write about a news report which I could not read till the end. I cannot believe that for one distressed person's mistakenly taken move (I do not want to know what it is, after all this person's wife was seriously ill), interns who would soon be doctors, can refuse their professional responsibility of saving lives.

I simply cannot believe that others, including support staffs in this Rajshahi hospital could actually support such a move. I cannot simply believe my eyes that I am reading this news, looking at this picture of the family The Daily Star has courageously printed.

What was Shahabul's fault, after all? Does that require a lot of explanation? He must have asked for more care or more attention for his wife. He must have tried to convince the doctors that his wife was very ill. He must have been a worried man. What else could have happened there?

Shahabul, the prison guard, whom I assume have very little financial abilities, must have pleaded for all this. What else could he do? He did not have the money and support to get his wife admitted in a private hospital. He came to the state-run hospital for treatment. This is what millions of people would do in Bangladesh.

But, instead of treatment for his wife, he was physically assaulted. It's a shame. The fact that for his behaviour the interns have physically assaulted him is unthinkable and unacceptable. But it is as if that was not enough! These interns actually waited for the controversial Rab officials to come over and do the rest.

What a fine solidarity! Then why blame Rab all the time? It look like we have so many Rab allies in our society. And Rab with a fine demonstration of power, lives up to their expectation: "Rab members knocked Shahabul to the ground and beat him up mercilessly," (according to eye-witnesses) says the report.

This happens in the afternoon in RMCH. By next morning four patients, including Sima, Shahabul's wife, dies. Four lives are gone -- just gone. So simple? So easy? How could these interns let this happen? I really want to see the names of these doctors. Who are they? Where do they belong? What are they made of?

I want their pictures in the newspapers. What do they look like? Really, I cannot hold myself today. My questions are simple: This must not go unnoticed by the government if that term at all means anything. Immediate inquirers should be made and these should look into the following questions: Who are the instigators of this "strike" against the patients? What are their motives? Where were the higher authorities of the hospital during that time? What were they doing at the moment when this alleged spat between Shahabul and the interns was taking place?

I have no words for Shahabul and his children. I don't know who is going to take responsibility for these deaths which took place under the negligence of a government-run hospital. Here, in UK, which I have made my temporary home, I get this impression that, despite there being huge economic divides (i.e. rich being far more rich and poor being far more poor in recent decades) there are a certain services which are state run and a lot of effort is being made to make it perfect.

Ones such service is the NHS, the National Health Service, which provides healthcare throughout UK. I have seen repeatedly on television how ordinary citizens would even reprimand the prime minister (in this case it is the outgoing Tony Blair) as a way of complaint about the NHS service and how the media would air these footages repeatedly. This makes the politicians very focused on these sensitive issues.

The incoming prime minister, Gordon Brown, has NHS as one of his biggest priorities. I know that it may not be very smart to make a comparison at this moment but I cannot help looking at the situation of our hospitals in Bangladesh.

I am just hoping against hope that this "high-powered" government will make a note of it and do the needful for a proper inquiry into the matter, including Rab's role in it. For the moment, I expect, and am waiting to see, the advisors comment on this. I also wait to see when an elected government makes healthcare issues a priority. Finally, I wait to for the media to take a pro-people stand.

Postscript: Another five people have died before this piece was submitted.

Mahmudul Sumon teaches anthropology in JU, Bangladesh. He is currently doing Ph.D. at University of Kent, UK.

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