POST TIME: 7 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
National priority in health care must address the poor
General patients constitute 80 per cent of the total number of admitted patients and they face outrageously shocking discrimination compared to the VIP patients
Sakib Hasan

National priority in health care 
must address the poor

The total health care scenario in Bangladesh is simply horrifying. Deplorably poor and subpar public health care coverage for the marginalized and the limited income bracketed people is obviously one of the most talked of issues in all forms of media in Bangladesh. Regarding this highly serious issue of public concern, virtually little improvement is seen on the ground once compared to the total amount of intellectual efforts and resources put into the articles, seminars, symposium and talk shows. However, I do believe strongly that each iota of effort helps positively in raising a resounding voice for both extensive and intensive health care facilities for the poor.

At present, the government medical college hospitals, government general hospitals at district level, thana health complexes, union parishad health facilities chiefly provide health care services to the poor and the limited income bracketed people of Bangladesh. In addition, private medical college hospitals also complement to the government’s efforts in this respect. In most government health facilities, patients hardly receive minimum treatment facilities let alone quality treatment. Outdoor facilities are confined to only providing some cheap brand medicines. In the cases of the admitted patients, almost all required medical tests have to be carried out by the patients even though test facilities are there in the hospitals. Less than 20 per cent of the total number of patients who are fortunate enough can avail themselves of a few test facilities but only after being on the waiting list for quite a long time.

Patients in the public hospitals are usually classified into two broad categories; general patients and VIP patients. General patients constitute 80 per cent of the total number of admitted patients and they face outrageously shocking discrimination if compared to the VIP patients. In almost all the cases, general patients neither receive cabins nor do they get caring treatment from the doctors and the concerned staff. Even though, there are beds, the helpless, poor, illiterate general patients are denied the accessibility to those beds and therefore find little corners on the floor of the hospitals. On the other hand, the powerful and influential VIP patients receive optimum facilities available in the hospitals.

Public hospitals are primarily meant for the ultra-poor, helpless and unsheltered and limited income bracketed people. But it is an irony that 80 per cent helpless and ultra-poor patients who mostly throng both the indoor and the outdoor corridors of the public hospitals are almost denied their constitutional right to accessibility to public health care facilities and packages. The little amount of treatment they receive from the government-funded health facilities neither cure them completely nor do they feel satisfied with the treatment. What we practically see on the ground is that these helpless people beg from door to door to collect fund for treatment in the private clinics and hospitals with the same set of doctors who work in the public hospitals. Of course, there is an appointed authority to look into the grievances of the deprived patients. However, this phenomenon of deprivation and denial are going on over the years with hardly any improvement.

It is absolutely unethical and unconstitutional to treat the haves while denying the have-nots in the public health facilities. There have been thousands of alleged complaints regarding the gross irregularities in the public hospitals. Complaints are there about misappropriation of medicines, fund, instruments and apparatuses. In addition, complaints are there that the ultra-poor helpless patients are made to pay, even though, little to afford some comforts which they naturally deserve on their own. Now the question naturally arises where the poor will go.

Private clinics, hospitals and the nursing homes are primarily established to cater to the medical needs of the solvent and the affluent section of the society. Run by the commercial motives, these private medical institutions and facilities have been providing medical services exclusively to the VIP patients since long. Government doctors can also practice and actually they do practice in these private medical organizations upon completion their official schedule in the government health facilities. Given this reality, isn’t it quite unethical on the part of the concerned government institutions to give priority to the big wigs of the society? If the question of priority ever arises, it is obviously the have-nots who deserve the first priority.

Realistic and action-oriented measures have to be taken so that the public health care facilities can reach out to the people who these are meant for. For example, authorities must ensure that the allotted medicines are fairly distributed among those who really deserve and need them. Available test facilities of the public hospitals must be accessible to those who can hardly afford to purchase them from outside. Monitoring vigilance must be put into actively operable format so that all duty doctors as well as assistants and other staff must report in their respective field of works. In a word, an institution of accountability has to be established and all concerned doctors, assistants and the staff have to be brought under accountability.  

The writer, Assistant

Professor of English in

Bogra Cantonment Public School & College, is a contributor to

The Independent.

E-mail: shasanbogra1@gmail.com