The prisons in the country have an estimated 90,000 prisoners and only nine doctors to look after them. We know that some 23 inmates are dying every month because it is not just doctors that are missing from the prison healthcare system—there’s a huge dearth of nurses and ambulances. Prisoners suffering from serious ailments like tuberculosis, diabetes, kidney and liver issues are at most risk. A report in this paper has unearthed these disturbing facts and figures.
One inmate had to pay for these inadequacies with his life because there was no ambulance to take him to the hospital when experiencing chest pains. Apparently, prison authorities decided to have him transferred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and put him on a rickshaw. This incident came to light when the deceased’s wife came to the media with the story. We wonder how many more stories have not been heard or reported. Prison authorities tell us that they have, over the course of many years, been asking authorities to fill the 141 doctors’ positions but nothing much has happened. Doctors for their part are least interested in taking up positions because they view it as a “punishment” posting, one which hurt their careers with little scope of promotion. That explains why there are no doctors posted in 60 prisons nationwide. Pharmacists, apparently, fill the roles of doctors, but they are hardly qualified to give professional help to patients. Authorities can, for starters, set up full-fledged medical facilities in prisons so that prisoners not suffering life threatening diseases can at least, be treated. The state has a moral responsibility to look after the healthcare of the prison population. They may be prisoners but they are still citizens of this country and are entitled to healthcare like anyone else.