Dhaka, Bangladesh
Make healthcare system pro-poor

Make healthcare system pro-poor

That the country cannot provide quality healthcare is evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, opine the public health experts. The shortcoming of the sector is known to all, but the pandemic has made it more visible. It is unacceptable that the patients are being denied admission or consultation at hospitals. The public health experts, therefore, call for an overhaul of the healthcare sector. According to a report, seventy per cent of the health expenditure is out-of-pocket and excessive expenses have been pushing poor people into further poverty. While a large number of well-off people travel abroad for treatment of minor ailments because of the little trust they have in the healthcare here. We don't know how long the coronavirus will continue to spread and when the outbreak might peak. Experts expressed frustration that repeated calls for increasing the number of daily tests fell on deaf ears. Other causes of high healthcare costs include numerous diagnostic tests and expensive but not-so-effective drugs. The allocation of TK 29,000 crore for the health sector this year is about only two per cent of the GDP while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends it to be five per cent. There is also a crisis of health infrastructure in urban areas. Had there been ward-level health facilities, people with COVID-19 symptoms would have been treated there. It is true; Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in some sectors like reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality and family planning. But inadequate budget allocation, shortage of trained human resources, inequity in health service delivery in hard-to-reach areas, prevalence of non-communicable diseases and high expenditure still remain as key challenges in the health sector. The SDGs in health sector aim to ensure health for all at all ages by achieving, among other things, universal health coverage and making sure the access to safe, affordable and effective for all. We are in accord with the opinion of the experts that individual health cost should come down to a considerable level. And for that, it is essential to raise government allocation on health sector for reducing healthcare expenditure of the common man and the poor, and removing the discrimination in health services. It is pointless to say that the government expenditure is very meagre and finally the people have to spend the major chunk of the expenditure from their own pocket. This increases inequality in the society as this places a huge cost burden on the poorer people. More investment in health sector for the poor is, thus, not only desirable but it should be also an essential policy priority.

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