Covid-19 and health budget
June 11th, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Covid-19 and health budget

Nadeem Qadir;

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed Bangladesh’s fragile health sector which shows that successive governments had ignored the importance of strong treatment facilities more essential than other sectors.

Thus first, the highest priority should be given to the health sector ahead of others including the defence, at least for the new fiscal year.

It is heartening to know that a “mega health budget” is on the cards, but is that enough for Bangladesh.

In a country where corruption at the cost of human lives is dominant like the import of fake medical masks that might have left many people sick with coronavirus, which can be deadly in some cases.

Novel coronavirus

Thus the budget allocation has to be monitored section by section, person to person and above all no single person should have the authority on matters where money is involved. A former minister has candidly admitted in one TV talk show that graft was rampant in the health sector and he failed to correct it during his tenure.

Along with budget allocation, stringent measures for punishing anyone found guilty of corrupt practices or neglect that costs the national exchequer.

COVID-19 is here, but scientists are forecasting already that in some 50 years or so, another and more dangerous virus is likely to hit the world. Thus we have to be prepared for that in this world of globalisation.

People will travel more and more, carrying all kinds of diseases with them. This means all ports of entry of Bangladesh must have minimum health checks permanently so that any disease can be detected at its start and contained.

Bangladesh is an overcrowded country with people who love to break laws as is seen in any other sectors like the roads accidents, which leave thousands dead annually.

The east Razabazar area lockdown in Dhaka is a test case belatedly. This author has repeatedly proposed imposition of curfew and then stern lockdowns. Many agree such a measure might have saved the country from the health debacle.

With the health budget for 2020-2021, the government must ensure basic health facilities in the Upazials or sub-districts manned by qualified doctors. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s order to ensure doctors posted out of the cities must remain in their posts and serve the people who provide their salaries by paying tax.

Returnees from abroad in Dhaka are being taken for health check near Dhaka airport – newsnext photo

There should be at least two Intensive Care beds and ambulances capable of carrying critically ill patients from their homes to the hospital, and if required to a city hospital.

One important area is giving human relationship training to the medics as it is no secret that local people are mistreated or even sometimes refused treatment. The patients too must have a guideline to ensure a happy relationship with the medics.

Medical helicopters must have provided to every district for carrying critically ill patients and could also be rented out when not in use to pay for the maintenance.

Dhaka University Professor Rumana Huque in a newspaper opinion piece wrote:”The first step is to assess the population health needs of districts based on the size of population, their demographic status, disease pattern and service utilisation. This, to me, must be heeded by the concerned authorities.

If we want, we can do it as already Bangladesh has become role models in some areas of the health sector.

The government is reportedly going for a “medium-term three-year plan and a 10-year long term one.” One would like to wish the prime minister and her Finance Minister AKM Mustafa Kamal, God speed in achieving their goal which will allow them sleep well as well as save valuable human loves in the future.

Nadeem Qadir is a senior Bangladeshi journalist and a Dag Hammarskjöld fellow,-