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Oxygen Crisis, Soaring Covid Deaths: MPs call for health minister’s resignation

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Opposition lawmakers yesterday criticised Health Minister Zahid Maleque for what they said was his failure in ensuring oxygen supplies to different hospitals and the recent deaths of Covid-19 patients amid oxygen supply shortage in Satkhira and Bogura.

Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque Chunnu called the health minister shameless and said he must resign.

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“What kind of a person is he? [He] does not have a [sense of] shame. Has he never gone inside a hospital to see what is going on? All he does is Zoom meetings,” he told parliament.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present at the session presided over by Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.

But the health minister was not to be seen in the house.

Speaking on a point of order, BNP MP Gulam Mohammad Siraj from Bogura-6 brought up the topic, saying that at least 24 Covid-19 patients died in Bogura in just two days last week due to lack of oxygen support.

Mohammad Ali Hospital in Bogura, dedicated for Covid-19 treatment, has eight ICU beds, but only two high-flow nasal cannulas. This makes six ICU beds almost useless, he said.

Three such hospitals in Bogura with 450 beds combined have been at capacity, turning new patients away, he said and demanded that the government provides each hospital with 20 high-flow nasal cannulas.

Jatiya Party Chairman and Deputy Leader of the Opposition GM Quader then said the health ministry is still in the place where it was a year ago. “There has been no progress.”

He said he had written multiple letters to the health ministry asking for medical supplies and equipment for hospitals in his constituency.

He added that he has spoken many times in parliament about what these hospitals are in need of.

Quader also said he called the health minister six to seven times, but the calls were not received. “I called the minister’s aide and told him to inform the minister. But the minister did not respond.”

He added that none of his effort bore any fruit.

BNP MP Harunur Rashid from Chapainawabganj-3 said, “The [health] minister said that the MPs are the chairmen of district hospitals and they do not carry out their responsibilities. The minister’s statement is not correct. This statement needs to be expunged from the parliament procedure.”

Ninety percent of the MPs in parliament are from the ruling party. “Are the ruling party MPs not performing their duties?” he asked.

The pandemic might take a turn for the worse over the next 10-15 days, he said, the government should address the oxygen supply shortage and provide the poor people with food assistance.

Jatiya Party’s Mujibul Haque Chunnu said the health minister has in the past compared the situation in Bangladesh to that in the USA. “Fewer people die in our country than in America. Is that his achievement? What has he done in the last one year? Hospitals in 36 districts do not have adequate oxygen supply. People are dying.”

JP MP Kazi Firoz Rashid from Dhaka-6 said, “Seven people died in one hour due to lack of oxygen in Satkhira. What have the nurses, ward boys and doctors done?… Does the death of people mean anything?”

He demanded forming an enquiry committee to look into the matter and publishing the findings of the committee.

He then alleged that patients often do not get any treatment after they are taken inside the ICUs. “No one knows what actually happens there.”

JP MP Rustum Ali Faraji from Pirojpur-3 said several lawmakers earlier alleged corruption in mask procurement. The health minister then claimed that no mask had been bought at all.

But a top official of the Directorate General of Health Services recently told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Health that each piece of surgical mask was bought for Tk 356.

“Why did the health minister avoid the truth?” he asked.

 



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