A recent report by the news agency Reuters has confirmed that it is not only the Bangladeshi population which has suffered due to the increased costs of healthcare during the pandemic. Globally, more than half a billion people were pushed into poverty in 2020, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did the pandemic disrupt medical services by increasing the burden on healthcare systems worldwide, but it also triggered an economic crisis of the worst kind since the 1930s, as per the joint statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank. During this time, immunisation coverage also reduced for the first time in a decade, and the world saw a rise in deaths from TB and malaria.
So how has this increase in poverty and out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare expenditure manifested in Bangladesh? A recent study by the health ministry revealed how high healthcare costs result in 4.5 percent of new poor each year. However, the pandemic itself has pushed 19.54 percent of our population into poverty, according to data collected by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). On top of the coronavirus, Bangladesh is also experiencing its biennial bout of dengue this year, with 27,959 cases of infections and 101 deaths reported till December 13 afternoon. Study findings from the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) state that the poorest households spent 139 percent of their monthly income for dengue treatment last year—when there were only 1,045 reported cases countrywide. It is anyone’s guess how staggering the costs for dengue treatment must be this year, and how heavy the burden on both patients and healthcare workers is as they also deal with the coronavirus. Now, with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus being detected in Bangladesh, and the added burden of rising prices of essential goods, the picture of healthcare expenditure is looking truly grim.
As the economy is showing slow but sure signs of recovering, the government needs to ensure the same for people’s health and personal finances as well. Many have had to drain their savings and rack up debts in order to pay for healthcare costs. Patients need to be able to seek treatment locally without fearing going into debt or poverty.
We urge the government to ensure affordable and effective treatment in public hospitals, and take urgent steps to address corruption and inefficiencies that are eating away at the health budget. We need to allocate resources at the union and upazila levels, so that people don’t have to make the expensive journey to Dhaka for diagnosis and treatment. In addition to this, the private healthcare sector must also be prevented from overcharging patients in times of crisis such as this.
মোবাইল নেটওয়ার্ক থেকে কোনো কারণে ফোন কল বিচ্ছিন্ন হয়ে যাওয়াকেই কলড্রপ বলা হয়ে থাকে। এর মূল কারণ দুর্বল সিগনাল।
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort