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The sorry state of our health sector

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09th-Apr-2018       
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COUNTRY'S treatment cost of chronic diseases is too high that pushes many marginal people under the poverty line. The government on Saturday observed World Health Day-2018 giving focus on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which ensured access of all people to quality healthcare services. Though the government has extended social safety net over the years, in fact the UHC is still out of the policymakers' discussion table. When poor people suffer from chronic diseases, including cancer, heart and respiratory problem they turn from poor to poorer because of high health costs. And actually, this is the sorry state of our health sector.
According to the Bangladesh National Health Accounts 1997-2015, out of pocket (OOP) health expenditure in Bangladesh is 67 percent of the total medical costs. WHO said this percentage of OOP is the highest in South and Southeast Asian region, followed by India with 62 percent, while the global average is 32 percent. A study by icddr,b found the OOP health expenditure pushes four to five million people into poverty line every year. Bangladesh has earned global accolades for improving its health indicators, mostly for reducing maternal and child deaths over the years. But the cases of chronic or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are increasing every year. A 2015 report of the WHO said heart ailments, cancers and respiratory complications soared by seven percent from the 2008 figures to 59 percent in 2012. The report said of the 8.86 lakh deaths in the country in 2012, 17 percent were caused by cardiovascular diseases, 10 percent by cancers, 11 percent by chronic respiratory diseases, 3 percent by diabetes, 18 percent by other NCDs and 9 percent by injuries.
We think, there is no alternative but to slash the price of life-saving drugs and equipment like rings, artificial valves, and others. Side by side, the public healthcare sector should be modernized and accountable. The government should form a regulatory body that will monitor the private healthcare sector as 60 percent people depend on private healthcare for NCDs.
We know private healthcare was introduced in the country to reduce some pressure from public hospitals struggling with a large number of patients. In reality, these private hospitals have become a big burden for the patients where low-quality services, excessive fees and lack of efficient doctors and nurses are a regular phenomenon.
By strengthening public medical services, the government should also make stronger regulation in the private healthcare. At the same time, stern action should be taken to curb the illegal practices by the physicians that are taking place.

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