Sandwip ambulances in dire straits

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Sandwip ambulances in dire straits

Lack of maintenance main reason
Shamsuddin Illius, Back from Sandwip
This recent photo shows water Ambulance ‘Rescue Eagle’ lying unused and uncared for at Guptachara Ghat in Sandwip for a long time. The vessel cannot be put into service due to the lack of operational staff and budget for fuel. Independent Photo

Publication Date: 22 February, 2017

Media: The Independent

Original URL Sandwip ambulances in dire straits

E-paper  URL:  Sandwip ambulances in dire straits


Two water ambulances meant for ferrying critical patients and expectant mothers from the isolated area of Sandwip to hospitals in Chittagong district have been lying disused for years due to lack of drivers, helpers and fuel.

One of them, named “Rescue Eagle”, has sunk one-third into the mud at Guptachara ghat, presenting the pitiable condition of healthcare in the remote area.

Shockingly, many residents expressed ignorance about the purpose of the water ambulances. “I haven’t seen them plying for a single day. So, I don’t know what they are used for,” said Md Ibrahim, a 55-year-old farmer from Bauria in Sandwip. “They have been lying in neglect for years,” said Md Sohel, a 20-year-old taxi driver from Munshi Bazar.

Admitting to the problem, upazila health officer (UHO) Fazlul Karim told The Independent: “We have tried several times to operate them, but in vain. We could not manage to get drivers, helpers and fuel to run the ambulances. We also do not have the budget for their maintenance. So, we have kept them anchored near Munshi Bazar.”

Echoing the UHO, upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Md Golam Zakaria said, “I found one of the water ambulances lying at the ghat after joining duty here. I am now planning to keep the ambulance in good condition so that it does not go out of order.” Sources said the Central Medical Store Department (CMSD), Dhaka, had given one of the water ambulances to the upazila health complex on May 17, 2008. It had cost Tk. 80,000 and meant to carry emergency patients from Sandwip to the nearest settlements.

In 2013, the disaster management and relief ministry had given another sophisticated water ambulance to the upazila parishad. But this one has been lying in shambles at Guptachara ghat. Meanwhile, the people of Sandwip have to rely on nature and the tides to avail of proper medical care as they have to ferry patients on boats to the nearby settlements.

“There is no arrangement of electricity here except for some small-scale generators, solar power and wind mills. So, there are no proper clinics or hospitals here. We can only expect to get primary treatment,” said Md Hasan.

The situation gets aggravated after 5pm as the private boat service from the island to Kumira, Chittagong, remains suspended till 6 am the next day. “If a woman suffers from labour pain between 5pm and 6am then we can’t take her to a hospital because of lack of boats. Many expectant mothers and serious patients have died due to this reason,” said Abdul Quiyum, a 55-year-old trader from Akbar Haat. “If someone wants to hire a private speed boat to carry a patient to the nearest hospital, he or she has to shell out at least Tk. 12, 000. That’s too much of a burden for the poor residents. Moreover, such services are very irregular,” said Dr Mozzamel Haque, who runs a pharmacy at Ershad market at Guptachar ghat.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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