Bangladesh health services and the vested groups Jack Of All Trades
Published : Wednesday, 8 July, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 284
The health services sector of the country is among the several government authorities that have been held hostage by the powerful vested groups which wield tremendous influences on the administration to manipulate national policies in their favour. The groups in connivance of the leaders and the officials in the ruling party and the administration always deflect the relevant authorities from taking appropriate plans and programmes, so that they can exploit the people in the name of alternative assistance when the administration, lacks expertise and facilities to help people in their dire needs.
Being interfered by vested groups the country's health services deteriorated seriously in the recent years as the government failed to take up appropriate plans to improve the service. Accordingly, the country currently lacks expertise and facilities to fight conventional diseases let alone the pandemic like Covid-19.
Being misguided by these vested groups, the government did not felt any urge to set up adequate number of specialised hospitals in the country. Utilising the government lapses, vested groups set up few upscale hospitals under private or joint ventures mainly in Dhaka and Chittagong, where most of the affordable patients are concentrated.
It is irony to note that the vested groups in connivance of the corrupt officials in the ministry, regularly win the procurement and construction deals which are implemented without any proper official monitoring. As a result the ministry gets the worst products to be used by the hospitals and the relevant departments. It also has to remain satisfied with the structures built without the proper engineering guidelines.
Investigations into many incidents of corruptions occurred in the government health services in the recent past probed that the most grafts were committed by the relatives and acquaintances of the high-ups in the health ministry. A huge number of substandard personal protective equipment, masks, face shields etc have been procured by the different departments under the health ministry after the outbreak of Covid-19. Misappropriation also allegedly occurred in procurement of costly ventilators, oxygen cylinders and other essential hospital equipment. However, the alleged corruptions are yet to be investigated as the relevant departments claim to be preoccupied in tackling the spread of novel coronavirus.
Due to the interference of the vested groups, the administration could never take appropriate plans to meet healthcare demand of people, who ultimately became dependants on the overseas treatment, which are possible only for the affluent class while teeming majority people remain helpless in the country that fails to provide treatment to the patients' sufferings from uncommon diseases.
In the wake of the perennial administrative weakness Bangladesh lags behind other South and South East Asian countries even in Covid-19 testing facilities. According to the latest report of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh issued on July 4, 2020, the country carried out only 4,409 tests per million people whereas the rate was 4,727 in Sri Lanka, 6,086 in India, 6,707 in Thailand, 17,902 in Nepal, 23,366 in Malaysia and 89,933 in the Maldives.
The death toll from Covid-19 rose to 2,096 in Bangladesh as 44 persons died of the virus in the last 24 hours on Monday last when the total number of infected people rose to 165,618, according to data of the Directorate General Health Service (DGHS).
According to latest statistics of worldometers.info, Bangladesh remains 18th worst affected country in the world in terms of all confirmed novel coronavirus cases. In the list of 213 countries and territories, France and Columbia was in the 17th and 19th position respectively on Monday last. On March 8, 2020, the authorities reported the first three Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh. The first death was recorded on March 18.
According to the National Preparedness and Response Plan for Covid-19 adopted by the DGHS, Bangladesh's overall spending on health is around 3% of GDP. However, the government contribution under the current budget is only 1.02%, and more than 70% is out-of-pocket expenditure, the highest in South Asia. According to experts, the biggest allocation for the out-of-pocket expenditure was meant for the mindless expenses by the relevant officials.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the overall allocation for health in the financial year 2019-20 budget was 4.9% of the total budget, which is one of the lowest in South Asia. It fails to meet WHO standards of 15 per cent of total budget (or five per cent of the GDP), and has been stagnating since 2015. An overwhelmed healthcare system is almost giving out. At this stage question arises why is Bangladesh faring poorly?
The question indicates that something is fishy in the Bangladesh health sector, which even lakes facilities for giving treatment for curable serious diseases.
Bangladesh lags behind not only in the relevant expertise, but also has serious incapacity in taking appropriate decision in tackling an impending threat on public health. Speaking on the issue of Bangladesh's response to the Covid-19 crisis, an eminent health expert in Dhaka recently observed that the country had lost valuable time by not shutting down till March 25 ,2020, three months after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
Furthermore, he expressed the view that the government was indecisive, and was not firmly determined on implementing either the lockdown or distancing decisions. Discussing the same issue, the regional director of a leading NGO opined that Bangladesh's response suffered from a lack of inter-sectoral coordination. He went on to further state that if Bangladesh had carried out the public health response planning based on a worst-case scenario, it might have started dealing with Covid-19 earlier and more effectively.
Experts feel the administration should itself get rid of the vested groups and mischief mongers in order to keep its pace in enhancing capacities to serve people in crisis period like coronavirus outbreak.
The author is Business Editor,
the Daily Observer