Bangladeshis have to pay more for medical services than citizens of other Asian countries
Despite the health sector being allocated more and more money in each budget, the general public is not benefiting due to overwhelming corruption at the institutional and personal level.
Furthermore, compared to other Asian countries, Bangladeshi citizens have to pay more to avail medical services.
Doctors and public health experts made these remarks in a virtual meeting titled “Covid-19 and the Health System of Bangladesh,” organized by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) on Saturday.
The discussants said there is no viable alternative to government hospitals for proper health service. However, they have been neglected for a long time due to corruption across the board.
They also said there is lack of accountability and cordiality in the private health sector in this unprecedented crisis the country is facing right now.
SANEM Executive Director Dr Selim Raihan, who conducted the webinar, talked about three indicators of the health system.
First, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants—Bangladesh has 0.8, while Sri Lanka has 3.6, Malaysia, 1.9, and Thailand 2.1.
Then comes budget allocation. Bangladesh spends 0.4% of its GDP for its public health system, while Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Thailand spend 1.6%, 2%, and 3% respectively.
Compared to citizens of other Asian countries, people of Bangladesh have a higher health expenditure. Out-of-pocket expenditure as a percentage of health expenditure in Bangladesh is very high at 74%. It is 50% in Sri Lanka, 38% in Malaysia, and 11% in Thailand.
Prof Rumana Haque commented that government, private organizations, or donor agencies were unprepared to deal with the financial and medical crisis.
Public Health Specialist Dr Md Abdus Sabur said: “Corruption will not stop in the health sector until contractors are removed from the material buying process. The government must ensure corruption is prevented from the inside while the DGHS will have to work to stop corruption in the private sector.”
Alongside steps to prevent Covid-19 spread, providing psychological health support is also necessary, he added.
The decision-making process has to be decentralized for emergencies as well as non-emergency circumstances, Sabur commented.
Prof Shah Monir Hossain, head of the expert committee under DGHS, talked about the lack of a sustainable plan to ensure life and livelihood in the health sector due to bureaucratic crisis.
“We have failed to unite public and private health sectors to provide medical service to all,” he remarked.
“Health services cannot be ensured by mere planning. We are busy in buying materials, not with its use or implementation,” he added.
These experts fear that lifting the lockdown to resolve the problem of life and livelihood has created new risks.
They also said it is not necessary to increase the budget allocation. However, it is of utmost importance to develop proper policies and ensure their implementation, and to increase manpower.