Ventilation project in comma!
Asif Showkat Kallol || BusinessInsider
Ventilation equipment. Photo: Collected
The Health and Family Welfare Ministry meagrely spent only 9.41 percent fund of a crucial Covid-19 mitigating project jointly sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Bangladesh, officials said.
The project titled ‘Covid-19 Response Emergency Assistance’ is worth over Tk 1,364 crore and it was supposed to install 170 ventilation equipment across the country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, the project officials could not install any ventilation equipment since April 2020.
The poor performance of the project was discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting presided over by the health services division secretary, Lokman Hossain Miah.
The ADB is to provide Tk 850 crore out of the Tk 1,364.56 crore project. The government will finance the rest.
The meeting observed that the Project Director should take comprehensive efforts to enhance the implementation of such a crucial project during the pandemic.
It also asked the department concerned to make necessary corrections to be sent to the health ministry for its first revision into the jointly funded project.
As per the meeting decision, the concerned authority will select places in seven land ports across the country to install scanning devices to detect Covid-19 of incoming people.
The meeting also discussed the project equipment assessment which the officials said should be comparable with the top private hospitals, such as Square, United and Lab-aid.
As per the first revised project, testing kits and PPEs will be procured from the international market without any delay. Health services division was required Tk 500 crore to procure those testing kits and PPEs. However, the cabinet committee on economic affairs had approved Tk 255 crore.
The project is also going to equip 17 medical colleges and hospitals with 10 additional isolation and critical care units for Covid-19 patients.
The project also intends to upgrade capacity and quality of at least 19 laboratories that carry out Covid-19 microbiological diagnosis.
Under the project the government could procure 107 real time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machines from the international market. Besides, the project would set up Covid-19 infection control unit in 492 upazila health complexes across the country.
“At least 3,500 health sector workers consisting of 50 percent women will be trained to enhance their skills and knowledge,” said the summary of the meeting.
the project, more health professionals and technical staff will be recruited.
In April 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, asked the health ministry to take steps to set up ICUs at every district general hospital.
Eminent virologist Dr Nazrul Islam, who is one of the members of the National Advisory Technical Committee (NATC) on Covid-19, told Business Insider Bangladesh that the health ministry did not arrange any training programmes for the physicians and nurses to install ICU units at the district general hospitals.
As a result, authorities failed to respond to sharp deterioration in Covid-19 cases in severely affected districts, such as, Rajshahi, Jashore, Kushtia and Kurigram.
“I am appalled to see that the health ministry could not spend even a tiny portion of the project money during the pandemic,” he said.
Senior Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder said the money was never a problem in combating the public health crisis brought by the Coronavirus pandemic but the health ministry is unable to utilise the endowments.
His observation came six days ago at a webinar organized by leading research organization, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
Talukder is in charge of releasing and managing funds for the Finance Ministry.
Last April, the ADB disbursed a $100 million or Tk 849.97 crore loan to support the Bangladesh government in its efforts to address the immediate public health requirement for combating Covid-19 across the country.