Our health sector budget must prioritise global- standard medical facilities

Published : Tuesday, 28 May, 2024 at 12:00 AM

High levels of inflationary pressure, low investment and increased debt servicing obligations, slow growth in the external sector, depletion of foreign exchange reserves, a feeble financial sector, slow growth, unemployment, and inequality are just a few of the challenges that Bangladeshs economy is currently facing. The national budget for the FY 2024-25 will be unveiled by the new finance minister during the first week of June, amidst an extremely difficult internal and global economic environment. Budgeting for the health sector in light of the nations demographics and putting it into effect will continue to be essential. To be successful, the budget for the health sector must be planned, allocated, and implemented using a comprehensive and creative approach.

According to a study conducted by Dhaka University, Bangladesh has the lowest health sector allocation in South Asia. In nations such as ours, the World Health Organization suggests allocating 5% of GDP. But, less than 1% of GDP has been allocated over the past 12-13 years, although China, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, and Pakistan have been allocating between 1% and 3.5% of GDP.

At 0.76% of GDP, Bangladesh has the lowest health budget in South Asia. Even so, the Ministry of Health is unable to use this funding. Every year, 28% on average of the allotment is returned. The 2022-2023 fiscal year saw the return of 39% of the allotted funds. With an average annual return of 32% and 27%, respectively, the Health Education and Family Welfare and Services sectors generate the highest refunds. Until March of the current fiscal year 2023-24, the Ministry of Health was unable to spend even half of the annual development program, or ADP, allotment. Just 31% of the allotted funds have been used.

Such a situation in terms of allocation and expenditure would not have occurred if the health sector was accorded the proper attention. The primary cause of not being able to spend the budgets allotment is the late release of funds. Together with the already-existing nepotism and corruption, there has also been a lack of competence among officials of connected agencies. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Health is unable to spend budget funds, individuals spend more than three times as much on health care than the government does. Both in terms of ADP and the budget breakdown for fiscal years, our allotted budget for health care is already insufficient. But even in that case, we keep forgetting to use that budget.



The credibility of the budget is mostly indicated by the budget execution rates. Regretfully, even though the World Health Organization (WHO) directs that budget allocation for the health sector not be prioritized, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has made it standard practice to return an unspent budget to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) at the end of each fiscal year.  However, in order to improve peoples access to and supply of high-quality health care in Bangladesh, a high utilization rate of the health budget should be guaranteed.

Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the people of Bangladesh are reaping the rewards of remarkable development and progress achieved over more than two decades of her dedicated service to this great nation. The nation has witnessed significant improvements in infrastructure, power, technology, healthcare services, education, agriculture and industrial sector etc. These strides in development have not only elevated the quality of life for millions of Bangladeshis but have also fostered economic growth and positioned the country on a path towards greater prosperity and resilience. We are today extremely proud that Bangladesh is considered to be a role model of development around the world.

Both healthcare professionals and individuals report that despite significant development and annual budget surpluses for the health sector, many people travel overseas for medical care because they are unable to trust the local medical systems, even in the presence of excellent physicians. Patients may feel that medical care in certain nations is more affordable than in Bangladeshi facilities. People in our country are being forced to seek treatment overseas due to the significant barriers that prevent nearly all public and private hospitals from providing high-quality care and a welcoming atmosphere for patients.

Regrettably, despite Bangladeshs enormous development and advancement, around 1 million Bangladeshis travel overseas annually to receive medical care for various conditions. Citizens in the intermediate income category can also access healthcare overseas, in addition to those in the higher income group. This figure is rising annually. Many Bangladeshis are forced to receive long-term care abroad, so they never even visit their home country. This situation results from our nations lack of hospitals that meet international standards. Though we have developed enormously in our health services, the lack of such facility is actually draining away over $3.5 billion every year from our countrys economy officially and unofficially the figure is much higher. Huge money laundering is also associated with this process which is detrimental to our economy.

The countrys healthcare system needs a complete refurbishment to dismay people from going abroad for treatment and control huge foreign currency from going down the drain every year. With the surplus budget, we can think out-of-the-box to develop the healthcare sector of our country while influencing the people to avail medical facility inside the country.

In alignment with the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for a contemporary and flourishing Bangladesh, the establishment of a world-class international hospital along with a medical college, nursing institute and medical research institution in the new extended Dhaka city area is a demand of the time right now. There are huge lands available at Purcbachol or Jalshiri Project Area, which can be allocated for such a facility, which will attract high and middle income citizens. This facility would serve as a vital complement to the tremendous infrastructure and urban development projects undertaken.

Moreover, there are many medical students from seven sisters area of India – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, and also the brother state of Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and few other Asian countries, who come to Bangladesh for their studies as they lack such facility in their own country or region. Hence, this new international-standard hospital as well as medical college and research institution will serve as healthcare solutions not only to the Bangladeshi people but also to the citizens of those states or nations.

TThe establishment of an international standard hospital would significantly enhance the quality of medical services available to our citizens as well as foreign nationals. It would also attract medical tourism, create numerous job opportunities, and contribute to the economic growth of our nation. Moreover, the foreign currency, spent every year for medical reasons abroad, will remain in the country and even we will earn additional foreign currencies, which will definitely boost our economy.

After the first establishment, we may establish such facility under franchisee operations at different prominent locations of the country. Additionally, the hospital must focus on research and development, fostering collaborations with international medical institutions to bring innovative treatments and healthcare solutions to Bangladesh. It may also serve as a training hub for our local healthcare professionals, ensuring the sustainability and self-reliance of our healthcare system.

To bring this visionary step to fruition, allocation of a suitable parcel of land in Dhakas new extended city area at Purbachol or Jalshiri project is necessary and should be accommodated in the budget of FY 2024-25. If the land is allocated by the government, private or foreign investment to create the infrastructure, following the laws and regulations of the state, can be brought in. The proposed hospital must be equipped with cutting-edge medical technologies, specialized departments, and staffed by a team of highly skilled healthcare professionals dedicated to providing top-notch medical care along with international standard medical college, nursing institute and medical research institution.

The unwavering dedication of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the current government to the advancement of Bangladesh can truly inspire this initiative considering our unused health sector budget. The establishment of an international standard hospital and medical facility will further our legacy of transformative development and serve as a beacon of hope and excellence in healthcare for our nation.

As we have necessary budgets for the health sector, the relevant authority may consider this option as it will not only contribute to the excellence of our health sector but also our economy. Private or foreign partnership will further enhance the scope. We hope, the authority will strengthen their commitment to the people by endorsing such visionary projects and our people will find the best medical solutions inside the nations boundary.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

Similar Posts