Tuesday, 25 January, 2022
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Medical Universities Should Be Properly Equiped for Research

A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

Medical Universities Should Be Properly Equiped for Research
A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

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On 9 January 2022, while virtually addressing the foundation stone laying ceremony of establishment of 460-bed comprehensive heart, kidney and cancer treatment units in medical college hospitals at the country’s eight divisional cities, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the renowned physicians to spend some time on research. She said, “We are setting up medical universities for conducting research along with providing treatment as research is inevitable in medical science.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also said that the government has been establishing medical universities in divisional headquarters where post-graduate level doctors will continue their study. She asked the doctors to conduct research and the government would do the needful as required. Referring to the establishment of biotechnology institute in Savar, she has said that research in the field of biochemical, biomedical, genetic engineering and oncology is badly needed in the country. She highlighted the establishment of different institutes in the health sector of the country by her government. Her government’s thrust should be for qualitative and dependable treatment facilities. We know that the government has recently taken the decision to provide free of cost health services to children below one year and persons above 65 years.

We know that her government has done massive work for the development of the health sector, both in the rural and urban areas. More than three thousand union health and family welfare centres were set up, upazila hospitals have been upgraded, the number of public and private medical colleges in the country has exceeded hundred, medical universities have already been set up in some of the divisional cities. A number of specialised medical institutes, like the National Institute of Neuro-science and Hospital, National Ear Nose and Throat Institute and Hospital, Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases and Hospital in Chattogram, Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Memorial KPJ Specialised Hospital and Nursing Institute, Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Eye Hospital and Training Institute in Gopalganj, Institute of Pediatric Neuro-disorder and Autism, Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery and Hospital, Sheikh Russell Gastro-liver Institute and Hospital, and National Institute of Laboratory Medicine, etc. have been established.

It is to be mentioned that Bangladesh Awami League, in its Election Manifesto 2018 on health sector, had pledged to- (1) provide health services free of cost  to children below one year and persons above 65 years, (2) establish a medical university and a 100-bed self-contained cancer and kidney treatment centre in each divisional city, (3) modernize  community clinics, (4) introduce modern technologies in the health services centres and hospitals, (5)  ensure the quality of services and the availability of medical person in rural health centres and (6) introduce treatment of heart, cancer and kidney in every medical college hospital.

The establishmentof 460-bed comprehensive heart, kidney and cancer treatment units in medical college hospitals of the country’s eight divisional cities would fulfill the present government’s election pledge it had committed during the last election campaign. In fact, the government has fulfilled many of its election pledges in the health sector and it is expected that the remaining pledges would be looked into for implementation within next two years before completion of its 5-year tenure. We must appreciate the government for its sincere efforts in keeping its commitment. We also expect that the government will not be confined in its election pledges only; it would go further to ensure better treatment facilities for its people.

Research in the higher education, whether it is in public or private universities, for general education or technical, including agricultural, engineering, marine or medical science, is very crucial for researchers as well as for the image of that institute. For conducting research works, an institute must have the base of quality education to prepare its students to conduct research and the required research facilities. If our universities cannot ensure the basic requirement of quality education, how will it find capable researchers from its students? This issue should get priority before providing a university with necessary research facilities. We should give such responsibilities to those institutes who hold enough strength to bear that load. Otherwise, a big tree will grow with its branches and leaves, but will give no fruits. 

However, when we talk about research, particularly research on medical science, it counts a lot of other ingredients, like quality medical education system of international standard, required research facilities in medical science in all medical universities, adequate sophisticated research equipment including technical and supervisory supports, necessary budgetary allocation from the government or own funds for research, etc. The government may like to sign memoranda of understanding with developed countries rich in medical science for their cooperation in developing our research field. One cannot deny that our experienced doctors remain so busy with their patients that they have no time to give for even going through a medical journal. Then, how would they be able to give time for any research work? This is a big concern to rethink. 

That’s why we see thousands of our people are going abroad for treatment every year. They are spending millions of our hard-earned foreign currencies. But these are the patients who have enough money to get better treatment and they can choose that. But the rest people of the country, particularly the poor section of our people, have no way but to remain here at the mercy of our doctors or seeking help either from the Almighty Allah or the power they believe. This is the reality, whether one believes or not. Any way, we hope to overcome this situation in future as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ensured us that her government would put best efforts for qualitative and dependable treatment facilities in the country.

We have the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) established in 1972 as an Autonomous Body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It is considered to be focal point for research in the health sector. Its objectives are to identify problems and issues relating to medical and health sciences and to determine priority areas in research on the basis of health care needs. We do not know its role in facilitating research works in our medical universities or any other research institutes. The government may like to strengthen this old establishment with adequate funds and other facilities so that it may grow as the country’s main research organisation in health sector. 

Finally, I would like to mention that we have no other alternative, but to introduce international standard education system as well as research facilities with adequate fund in our medical universities as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said, “research is inevitable in medical science.” We are confident that this would also strengthen our journey of becoming a developed nation by 2041.

 

The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary