Patients continue to be denied treatment

The Daily Star June 18, 2020

Take strict and immediate actions to prevent any further loss of life

Despite orders from the government directing all public and private hospitals to ensure treatment for patients irrespective of whether they are infected with coronavirus, many hospitals are still failing to provide life-saving medical care during this time of crisis. Yesterday, we featured two harrowing photos in this daily depicting the sufferings of ordinary people—a grief-stricken grandfather mourning the death of five-year-old Shaon, who was hit by a three-wheeler and denied treatment in at least four hospitals and clinics, losing his life 15 minutes before he reached Chattogram Medical College Hospital; and cancer patient Amena Begum and her mother, who travelled to Dhaka on June 8 and have been sleeping on the floor of the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital since then, waiting for the results of her Covid-19 test without which she is being denied essential treatment.

According to health ministry circulars from May 11 and 24, all private and government hospitals must have separate arrangements for treating suspected Covid-19 patients and cannot refuse treatment to patients, Covid-19 or otherwise, if they have the requisite facilities of equipment. Regardless, hospitals are continuing to demand Covid-19 negative certificates before providing treatment, which can take days, if not weeks, to arrive. How morally bankrupt must we be to allow innocent children like Shaon to die, simply because they lack a certificate? Why should women like Amena Begum lose their chance to fight their diseases simply because of a backlog in paperwork?

Unfortunately, following a petition filed by the government, the Supreme Court has stayed almost all the High Court directives on this matter, including the directives on death of or denial of treatment to a patient due to negligence being a criminal and punishable offence, and on taking legal action against those displaying negligence while treating patients in a hospital. So far, the only directives that have been upheld are the submission of a report by the DGHS by June 30 on whether the health ministry circulars have been implemented properly, the formation of a monitoring cell to ensure private hospitals provide treatment, and regulation of the prices of oxygen cylinders.

But while these reports are being filed and monitoring cells are being formed, ordinary people’s lives are being put at risk every day. Strict and immediate actions are required to ensure there is no more suffering and unnecessary loss of life due to such negligent practices. The government must show its commitment not only towards fighting coronavirus, but also towards providing critical healthcare for all the citizens of this country during this crisis period.

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