The High Court yesterday issued a set of guidelines to ensure proper expenditure of state money and transparency in the purchase and maintenance of medical equipment in government hospitals across the country.
The guidelines are a part of an HC verdict, which also directed the health secretary to collect Tk 5 lakh compensation from four officials of the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) for their negligence in preserving and protecting hospital equipment, including intensive care unit ventilators.
The four are AMM Shariful Alam, a director and project director between May 3, 2007 and February 8, 2009; Professor Mollah Obaidullah Baki, a professor between August 16, 2009 and May 19, 2013; Prof Md Moarraf Hossain, a director and project director between December 31, 2014 and June 6, 2019; and Prof Manosh Kumar Bashu, who has been the chief of the anaesthesia department since February 7, 2015.
On January 2 this year, the HC issued a suo moto rule and directive after Supreme Court lawyer Manoj Kumar Bhowmick placed a report by The Daily Star titled “ICU on sickbed” before it, seeking necessary orders on this issue.
The same day, it also ordered the health secretary and the DG of DGHS to form a committee and conduct an enquiry into the allegations of negligence by the NICRH authorities, and submit a report before the court upon its completion.
The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman delivered the verdict after a hearing on the probe report.
In the verdict, the court also ordered three officials of health ministry (service department), directorate general of health services and Cancer and Research Institute to conduct an enquiry into whether Moarraf Hossain had sent letters to the chief technical managers of National Electro-Medical Equipment Maintenance Workshop and Training Centre (Nememw and TC) in order to activate the ventilators in question.
They will complete the enquiry in 15 days on receiving the verdict.
The HC in its judgment said the demand for medical equipment, machineries and medicines must be determined through an expert committee before their purchase, and their standard and quality must be ensured by the committee in accordance with relevant purchase rules.
It also ordered the health secretary and director general of the DGHS to take necessary steps about the recommendations placed by the Anti-Corruption Commission to the health ministry in order to resist corruption and irregularities in the health sector.
It said the authorities must determine whether structures need to be built to install the equipment and machineries after the demand is finalised. The equipment and machineries will have to be purchased only after the structures are readied.
Competent officials and staffers will have to be appointed and trained to operate and maintain the equipment and machineries.
The appointment of the officials and staffers should be made under the revenue sector, not from outsourcing, as outsourcing appointment has no accountability, the HC said in the verdict.
The court ruled that a high-powered committee must be formed at every hospital to examine the standards and quality of the medical equipment and machineries and to keep them active and functional round the clock.
The tenures of the medical equipment and machineries must be displayed at outside of the rooms where they are installed, it said.
The court said if the enquiry committee finds that the claim of Moarraf Hossain of sending letters to activate the ventilators is not true, Tk 5 lakh will have to be collected from him.
If it is proved in the probe that the Nememw and TC officials concealed Moarraf’s letters, Tk 5 lakh will have to be collected from each of its (Nememw and TC) officials Md Abdul Kaiyum (joint secretary, now retired) and Md Rezanur Rahman (joint secretary).
The HC bench lifted its January 2 order that directed the government to suspend the retirement financial facilities of Moarraf.
Yesterday, the bench also ordered the health secretary to take departmental action against Prof Manosh Kumar Bashu along with collecting Tk 5 lakh from him.
In the rule, the court asked the government authorities concerned to explain as to why the reported negligence of the NICRH authorities should not be declared illegal.
The NICRH, situated in Mohakhali, is the hospital of choice for patients in the low-income group.
According to an International Agency for Research on Cancer report released last year, about 1.08 lakh people die of cancer while 1.5 lakh are infected with the disease every year in Bangladesh.
Deputy Attorney Generals Amit Talukdar and Sarwar Hossain Bappi represented the state while Kazi Ershadul Alam appeared for The Daily Star.