Bangladesh's Healthcare System Faces Challenges Amid Political Influence

A recent study highlights the need for decentralization of Bangladesh's healthcare system to ensure quality treatment for 60-70% of patients at their doorsteps. The study identifies key problems in medical facilities, including lack of cleanliness, mismanagement of resources, and shortage of medicine.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Bangladesh's Healthcare System Faces Challenges Amid Political Influence

Bangladesh's Healthcare System Faces Challenges Amid Political Influence

Bangladesh's healthcare system is grappling with unequal resource allocation, corruption, and compromised quality of medical services, largely influenced by political and economic factors. A recent study conducted by former Health Minister Dr. AFM Ruhul Haque, in collaboration with Eminence Associates for Social Development, highlights the need for decentralization of the healthcare system to ensure quality treatment for 60-70% of patients at their doorsteps.

Why this matters: The challenges in Bangladesh's healthcare system have far-reaching implications for the country's economic growth and human development, as a healthy workforce is essential for productivity and competitiveness. Addressing these issues is crucial for Bangladesh to reap the benefits of its demographic dividend and achieve sustainable development goals.

The study, titled "Bangladesh health sector: present challenges and future guidelines", was conducted between March to July last year and involved 11 policy dialogues with leading physicians, educationists, politicians, journalists, and civil society people. The report, revealed on Sunday at a hotel in the capital, identified key problems in medical facilities, including lack of cleanliness, mismanagement of resources, shortage of medicine, ineffective and insufficient equipment, carelessness in repairing equipment, and lack of medical teachers and trainers.

Dr. AFM Ruhul Haque, former Health Minister, stated, "This is praiseworthy that our healthcare system has improved. However, people are yet to find doctors, medicine and other facilities at upazila and district levels." The study recommends decentralizing the healthcare system by boosting root-level medical facilities, addressing the identified problems as early as possible, overhauling medical education, and introducing a digital referral system.

The centralized nature of Bangladesh's healthcare system has led to indiscipline in the sector, with many hospitals struggling to provide services while others see very few patients. Dr. Shah Munir Hussain, executive member at Eminence Associates for Social Development, emphasized, "The Bangladesh health sector is totally centralised, with which we will not be able to attain sustainable development goals."

The challenges faced by Bangladesh's healthcare system were further highlighted during Health Minister Dr. Samanta Lal Sen's visit to Jaintapur Upazila Health Complex in Sylhet on March 6, 2024. The minister suspended the duty doctor due to his absence from work and issued strict instructions to address the low presence of doctors. The hospital faces a manpower crisis and requires renovation, underscoring the need for effective policies and governance to address these issues and improve the healthcare system in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has made significant strides in improving its healthcare system in recent years. The government has established 5,500 health and family welfare centers at the Union level, aiming to provide 24/7 services to pregnant women by deploying 4 midwives in each center. The government plans to increase the total number of midwives to 20,000 by the next two years. Bangladesh has also achieved progress in reducing maternal mortality and birth rate, improving health governance and infrastructure, and enhancing the quality and quantity of health professionals.

Despite these improvements, Bangladesh faces challenges in fully reaping the benefits of its demographic dividend due to limitations in its healthcare system and other factors. The country spends less than 3% of its GDP on healthcare services, lower than other Southeast Asian countries and the World Health Organization's recommendation. Malnutrition remains a major problem, affecting the health conditions of the population, especially in rural areas and lower wealth quintiles. An undernourished labor force hinders high labor productivity, and children who suffer from early childhood malnutrition have poorer IQ levels, cognitive function, school achievement, and greater behavioral problems.

Bangladesh is committed to ensuring healthcare for all mothers and children. As Bangladesh strives to address the challenges in its healthcare system and harness its demographic dividend, effective policies, governance, and increased investment in healthcare and education are crucial. Decentralizing the healthcare system, improving medical facilities, and ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare services across the country will be key to achieving sustainable development goals and improving the overall well-being of the population. The government's initiatives and the recommendations put forth by experts and studies provide a roadmap for strengthening Bangladesh's healthcare system and unlocking the potential of its human capital.

Key Takeaways

  • Bangladesh's healthcare system faces challenges due to unequal resource allocation, corruption, and poor quality services.
  • Decentralizing the healthcare system can ensure quality treatment for 60-70% of patients at their doorsteps.
  • The country spends less than 3% of its GDP on healthcare, lower than other Southeast Asian countries.
  • Malnutrition remains a major problem, affecting labor productivity and children's health and development.
  • Effective policies, governance, and increased investment in healthcare and education are crucial to achieving sustainable development goals.