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making people poorer
Health - May 7, 2022

Excessive medical costs
making people poorer

Mostly becoming destitute to meet expenses

Golam Mostafa Jibon: People especially poor and middle class are being disoriented day by day due to excessive medical expenses along with growing price hike of daily necessaries.
The number of people infected with non-communicable diseases is increasing in the country. People are suffering from different sort of diseases including cancer, kidney, liver and stroke. The middle class and lower-class people are struggling to bear the cost of these incurable diseases. They are losingtheir all to save their loved ones (patient). Many are selling lands and spending money to save their loved ones. But they are not getting adequate services what the government claims. The patient’s condition is almost worsened after falling into a long line at a government hospital. Different types of infections appear on the hospital floor in patients who have undergone complex operations. So even if the service is combined, life does not survive. As there is no strict policy on the price of medicines, different pharmacies keep different prices. With this there is the violence of adulterated drugs. Due to lack of allocation and far-sightedness in the health sector, the middle class is facing trouble, while the lower class is being added to the list of poor and poorer. Those who can afford it are flocking to India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and United Kingdom for treatment.But, poor are losing life in the soil of own country without getting proper treatment due to excessive costs and harassment in the name of services.
Hamidul Islam, 35, works as a computer operator in a private company. His wife’s two kidneys have been crippled for the last two years. Tk 1,120 is spent against dialysis at a government hospital two days in a week. Thus, he is compelled to spend Tk 6,620 against kidney dialysis per month. In addition, the costs of medicines, doctors and travel reach to more than 10,000 per month centering the treatment.
He said, “I have to pay Tk 560 for dialysis in a government hospital. But in many cases, there is a crisis of necessary materials in the hospital for dialysis. At that time, the relatives of the patient are asked to buy it. It costs over Tk 1000 each time. I get a salary of Tk 20,000. I can’t afford to carry all expenses including house rent, children education and others. Finding no way, I have already lent about Tk 2 lakh from my
relatives and NGOs.”
Not only Hamidul, many people living in Dhaka have been facing such problem regularly due to rising of daily expenditure along with medical or treatment costs.
Jafrullah Chowdhury, the founder of the Ganasasthya Kendrosaid,”The government’s allocation in the health sector is insufficient. For this, about 80 percent of the medical expenses have to be carried out by the people from their own pockets. Not only will the allocation be increased, the tide of change will have to be brought in the underdeveloped health sector.”
“About 50,000 people live in each union of the country. But there is no doctor for them. For this, Union Healthcare Center has to be modernized and up-to-date. At least four doctors have to be recruited there. One of them should be a dentist and a psychiatrist. X-ray and ultrasound machines will be provided at this health center. Along with this, nurses and technologists have to be hired. Accommodation for these health workers will also have to be arranged there. They need special training and incentives. Then the patients of the unions will get the necessary services,” he added.
The authorities have no headache over excessive price hike of medicines. The 1982 law does not have proper guidelines for fixing the price of medicines; it should be brought under notice. The hospital has to pay huge amount of duty to import the equipment. A bed import has to pay 58percent duty. This will discourage people from setting up hospitals and clinics. Students of every medical college should be given the idea of serving marginalized people. They will be responsible for the service activities of at least 10 unions. Then the sense of responsibility of service will be stronger among them, Jafrullah Chowdhury said.
According to the government’s own research, the spending of one’s own pocket in the health sector is increasing. About 69 percent of the current expenditure is borne by the people themselves. The financial situation of more than 6 lakh people is getting worsened every year for this.
Due to high cost, 16 percent of households refrain from receiving health care. In other words, even if more than 3 crore people are needed, they do not go to the doctor or hospital. A recent study conducted by the Health Economics Unit under the Ministry of Health revealed such information.
The research further revealed that, the main obstacle to accessing universal healthcare in Bangladesh is the high level of personal spending or out of pocket expenditure. In this case, Bangladesh is far behind in achieving the target. Officially, the allocation to the health sector is increasing every year, but services are not improving at all. As a result, Bangladesh is lagging behind in health care services.
The number of cancer patients in the country has increased dramatically. The incurable disease of cancer has cast a dark shadow over every human family or relative. The patient’s family is in trouble to continue the treatment of cancer.
Patients with ulcers and liver cirrhosis are also at risk. Kidney patients are becoming poorer with the cost of medication and dialysis. Dialysis at a government hospital costs Tk 560 each time. The cost of one-time dialysis at Kidney Foundation is Tk 3,400. The public health hospital charges Tk 1,000 each for dialysis, while the hospital charges Tk 480 from the poor. Dialysis at a five-star hospital costs around Tk 5,300.
Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka Professor Emeritus AK Azad Chowdhury said that, “The number of people suffering from non-communicable diseases like cancer, kidney and liver problems is increasing day by day in the country. Families are struggling to meet the long-term medical costs of these diseases. The cost of these incurable diseases has to be borne mostly by the patient from own pocket. This is a burden on the family. People are getting poorer to meet the expenses. For this the government has to come forward.”
“There are many successes of the government. But real success is a must in the health sector,” he added.

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