All citizens have the right to do politics, says the health minister
Several opposition lawmakers on Wednesday sharply criticized the government for mismanagement in the health sector, particularly political activities by the physicians and high fees in private hospitals.
They came up with the remarks while taking part in discussions on the Medical Colleges (Governing Bodies) (Repeal) Bill 2021 in parliament.
In response to their criticisms of doctors for their involvement in politics, Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque said all citizens have the right to do politics.
Joining the discussions, Jatiya Party MP Kazi Firoz Rashid (Dhaka-6) said BNP had formed DAB (Doctors’ Association of Bangladesh) and Awami League, coming in power, formed Swachip (Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad).
“We would have been happy if he (health minister) had incorporated a provision in this bill that the doctors and scientists will not be allowed to do politics, but he didn’t,” Firoz Rashid said.
He also said: “Meritorious students study medical courses. But people are deprived of medical services if they do politics.”
BNP MP Harunur Rashid (Chapainawabganj-3) said the health system is still in a sorry state even after the 50 years of the country’s independence. “Now those who’re working in government hospitals are also doing business in private hospitals.”
He also said so many private medical colleges were established. “Do the colleges meet the standards? How many students of the colleges can qualify BCS exams?”
The BNP MP wanted to know what action the government has taken against the irregularities in the admission tests of medical colleges from 2013 to 2019.
The government earlier claimed that there had been no irregularities in the admission tests, though the CID report now says that there were anomalies in the seven consecutive years, Harun added.
Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque said if the doctors do private practice after being BCS officers, they cannot do their main job properly. “It is a long-standing problem. I would like to tell the minister if you want to do anything well, please try to stop their private practices.”
It should not go together with that they will draw a salary from the public coffer and do private practices, Mujibul added.
Referring to private medical colleges, he said they charge huge money -- tens of thousands of money -- unofficially and illegally.
BNP MP Rumeen Farhana (Women Seat-50) said many families have become financially crippled during the Covid-19 period, taking treatment in private hospitals having failed to avail themselves of medical services in government hospitals.
She also claimed that many people may have survived, but became financially crippled. “Many people ran out of their savings and got trapped in huge debts.”
“The number of middle-class families was 70% before the coronavirus period, which now came down to 50%. The poverty rate has gone up to 40% from 20% during this time,” said Rumeen.
Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman (Sunamganj-4) said there is no control over the service charges at private hospitals. “Many people became penniless going to private medical and hospitals for treatment.”
BNP lawmaker Mosharof Hosen (Bogura-4) said doctors are deeply involved in politics. “Politicians should do politics, while law enforcers should concentrate on maintaining law and order and doctors should focus on providing medical services.”
In response, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the government has so far approved 38 medical colleges in the country. “Medical colleges will be established in all districts gradually.”
About politics by physicians, he said there are associations of doctors – Swachip and BMA. “All have the right to do politics. Engineers and lawyers can do politics. So, I see nothing wrong or illegal if there’re associations among the doctors.”
The minister also said meetings are held to fix the treatment fees at private hospitals. “Hopefully, there'll be a solution to it.”
About the installation of PCR labs at airports, Zahid said the Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry would take measures in this regard, while the health ministry would provide technical support.
The PCR labs might be set up at the airports within day one or two, he added.