Around 6.4 million or four percent people in Bangladesh get poorer every year due to excessive health cost, revealed an ICDDR,B study yesterday.
It found that 20 percent of the poorest spend 16.5 percent of their household consumption for health reasons, while 20 percent of the richest spend 9.2 percent.
“In Bangladesh, out of the pocket health expenditure is 64 percent, and the rest comes from the government and other sources,” said Dr Jahangir AM Khan of health economics unit at International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B).
He was presenting the study on healthcare expenditure at a workshop at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital. The research was based on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey, 2010.
Health Economics Unit (HEU) of the health ministry organised the national workshop on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with support from the German funding agency GIZ, World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO).
Ashadul Islam, director general of the HEU, said Bangladesh's health expenditure per capita is $27, which is the lowest in the region compared to $59 in India, $33 in Nepal, $30 in Pakistan and $97 in Sri Lanka.
Though the country's health budget has increased over the years, it has been decreasing in percentage wise, he mentioned, adding that inadequate funding, inequity in financing and its inefficient use are some of the crucial challenges faced by Bangladesh's health sector.
Speaking as the chief guest at the workshop, Zahid Maleque, state minister for health and family welfare, said the country has an extensive health infrastructure, but there is shortage of equipment, doctors, nurses and technicians.
There are difficulties in keeping doctors in rural areas, while the private sector is concentrated mainly in urban areas. Yet, Bangladesh has improved much in reducing child and maternal mortality, he pointed out.
German Ambassador to Bangladesh Albrecht Conze said healthcare is not a charity, but a basic human right enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution and the UN declaration.
“Bangladesh has improved in industrial development, but its health services have not grown in that line,” he observed. Germany is funding a pilot health protection scheme in three upazilas of Tangail, and will help Bangladesh establish a universal health coverage, added the envoy.
Mohammad Khairul Hasan of the health ministry suggested regularising quality and pricing of services in private health sector for improving healthcare in the country. He also stressed the need for developing a service standardization model and introduction of fixed fee schedule of services across the health facilities.
Dr Mahmud Hasan, president of Bangladesh Medical Association, recommended that the government provides incentives to physicians to work in rural areas.
Priyanka Saksena and Robert Yates of WHO and Dr Mukesh Chawla of World Bank spoke, among others.