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ED: Fixing the health care system should be priority number one

  • Published at 06:10 am June 10th, 2021
Covid
People queue up at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital in Dhaka to get tested for Covid-19 Focus Bangla

It is unacceptable that this country, championing equitable growth, has such high out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for health care

As the new fiscal year gets underway, it is imperative that we look back on what went wrong for Bangladesh last year, and nowhere are the glaring shortcomings more apparent than in our health sector.

This became even more apparent when Finance Division’s Senior Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder readily admitted to the challenges Bangladesh faced in dealing with Covid-19, and the failure of our health sector, particularly to spend the budget it was allocated and public health procurements being supply-driven and not driven by the needs of the people.

While it could be considered commendable that he admitted to these failures, it does not inspire confidence, as accountability and transparency are not merely laudable qualities. Indeed, they ought to be expected of any government of any democratic nation -- and as such, Bangladesh and its government should be held to these minimum standards.

Nevertheless, for Bangladesh, an official acknowledgement is indeed a step in the right direction, but should be nothing more than a starting point. The fact of the matter is that Bangladesh has been overwhelmed and underprepared for any spikes in Covid-19, with people scrambling for ICU beds and oxygen tanks and subjected to unimaginable suffering.

Moreover, while this newspaper has editorialized on the need to allocate greater funds to the health sector, the fact that the health sector failed to properly utilize the budget allocated to it is extremely worrisome. It is unacceptable that this country, championing equitable growth, has such high out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for health care, ranking only second to war-torn Afghanistan in the whole of South Asia.

Moving forward, fixing the health care system in the country should be priority number one for the government. Growth, development, mega-projects -- none of these matter if a country is unable to keep its citizens healthy and provide for them when they need it most.

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