Ensuring Universal Health Coverage: Health minister regrets government failure | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:29 PM, December 06, 2018

Ensuring Universal Health Coverage: Health minister regrets government failure

Health Minister Mohammed Nasim has expressed regrets over the government not being able to ensure universal health coverage, a UN goal of providing access to quality healthcare services for all without enduring financial hardship by 2030.

The Awami League-led government over the last 10 years made remarkable achievements in the health sector but there are failures too, he said.

“I cannot deny the failure when we consider the many achievements…we could not ensure universal health coverage. Many suffer financial hardship brought about by medical treatment,” Nasim said at a press briefing at the health ministry auditorium yesterday.

The most important element of universal health coverage (UHC) is reducing the out-of-pocket health expenditure, which has gone up from 64 percent in 2011 to 67 percent now in Bangladesh. The global average is 32 percent.

“Out-of-pocket health expenditure” refers to direct payments made by individuals to health care providers at the time of service.

At the briefing, the health ministry launched a book titled “Shafolyer Joare Bangladesher Shasthya Bishwer Bishshoi!” [Bangladesh's success in health sector is a global marvel] detailing the Awami League-led government's achievements in the last two tenures.

According to a comparative analysis presented at the briefing, life expectancy in Bangladesh, which was 66.5 years in 2008, has gone up to 72.8 years. Child mortality has gone down from 65 in 2008 to 29 per 1000 live births now.

Maternal death that was 320 in 2008 has come down to 176 per one lakh births.

Bangladesh has achieved the honour of receiving 16 international awards, including three from the UN, for its achievements in health sector, claimed Nasim.

The government, over the last 10 years, has re-launched 13,779 community clinics to take healthcare to the doorsteps of people and set up 24 public medical colleges (including six under the armed forces), according to a government report. 

The government set up 10 new specialised institutes and hospitals, and four new general hospitals. It also increased 10,983 beds at public hospitals, recruited 15,596 doctors and 15,000 nurses, the report said.

“The government introduced modern healthcare technologies, including telemedicine, initiatives on mental health and autism, and a pilot health insurance programme,” Nasim told reporters.

In the 2008-09 financial year, the health budget was Tk 3,420 crore, which increased by seven times and stood at Tk 23,383 crore in 2018-19.

A journalist asked why the government has not been able to make the best use of health facilities and equipment at public hospitals, better manage the health personnel at the establishments, and regulate the thriving private healthcare sector.

The minister did not reply, instead gave the floor to health services division secretary Ashadul Islam.

Islam said the government has institutional mechanism to regulate the private healthcare sector. “Health sector in Bangladesh is rapidly expanding. We are trying to regulate it and eventually will improve the quality of healthcare,” he said.

GM Saleh Uddin, secretary to the health education and family welfare division, and Prof Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general at the Directorate General of Health Services, also spoke at the programme.

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