In public interest, the health ministry has decided to reinstate a top child cancer specialist -- one of only three such experts in the country -- who was to be transferred from Chattogram Medical College Hospital to Rangamati Medical College Hospital (RmMC).
“We have decided to reinstate him at CMCH considering public interest, however, it will take a few days to complete the procedure,” Zahid Maleque, minister for health and family welfare, told The Daily Star last week.
On June 26, the ministry ordered the transfer of Dr AKM Rezaul Karim, professor of Paediatric Haematology & Oncology, from CMCH to RmMC for commenting on a Facebook public post critical of lawmaker and Bangladesh cricket team captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.
Asked about the transfer at the time, the health minister said, “I will not term it a punishment; rather it was a warning to thwart this sort of incident in future,” adding that making such a comment about a lawmaker was indecent.
Following news of the transfer, more than 100 cancer patients and their relatives formed a human chain in front of Chattogram Press Club on July 4, demanding the withdrawal of the order.
Leaders of different platforms of doctors too denounced the move, saying that the doctor would have nothing to do at Rangamati hospital as there was no cancer treatment facility there.
Contacted, Karim, who is still at CMCH, told The Daily Star that he was yet to receive any instruction from the ministry regarding the reinstatement.
“On July 14, I sent a review petition saying that if I was transferred, I would not be able to use my expertise, as there is no facility to treat cancer patients in Rangamati,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s decision to reinstate Karim at CMCH has brought relief to patients and their relatives.
Nizamuddin, who has to come to CMCH from Feni with his 11-year-old son, told The Daily Star that the reinstatement meant that his son’s treatment would not be hampered.
Asma Begum, mother of Mohammed Shohel,13, told The Daily Star that Dr Karim used to arrange donors for patients who couldn’t afford expensive medicines. News of his transfers, however, had stoked fears that the practice might stop.
“We were finding no way to arrange the money after his transfer order. Now we are happy as the decision has been changed and the treatment of my son will continue properly,” she added.
Safia Gazi, principal of Sunshine Grammar School and College, who has been manging donors to provide medicines to poor patients under the banner of Sunshine Charity for the past nine years, thanked the ministry for changing the decision.
“Dr Karim is one of only three such experts in the country and in his absence there was no other specialist to treat the patients,” she said.
According to CMCH sources, earlier the paediatric cancer patients of greater Chattogram had to go to Dhaka or abroad for treatment. The establishment of the department by Karim in 2013, however, changed the scenario.
On average, 100 patients receive treatment at the ward, most of whom do not have the ability to go to Dhaka or abroad for treatment, sources said, adding that other than Karim, there was only one assistant professor to treat the patients.
Karim’s criticism of Mashrafe came after the Bangladesh cricket captain’s April 24 visit to Narail Sadar Hospital, where he found four doctors absent.
After a video of his visit went viral on social media, a number of doctors questioned the language Mashrafe used while talking to one of the absentees over phone. Many took to social media to voice their displeasure.