Friday, 29 September, 2023

‘Nothing special in health budget to achieve UHC, SDG’

The proposed health budget will not play any special role in attaining the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as the proposed budgetary allocation is not adequate, experts said.

They also recommended revising the proposed health budget and increasing the amount in a bid to ensure proper and improved healthcare services for all of the country.

“There is nothing special in the proposed health budget for advancing towards attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG),” Prof Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, former director of Institute of Health Economics at the University of Dhaka, told the Daily Sun.

He also said it is not possible to expect improved health services or additional facilities in the health sector through the proposed budget as the budget can only continue the existing services.

“This budget will keep the rising trend of Out of Pocket expenditure of people for getting health services as no path is mentioned here to reduce the Out of Pocket expenditure,”  Syed Abdul Hamid observed.

The health economist said the proposed development budget was 17 percent less than the previous year’s proposed budget which cannot ensure quality health services with reasonable cost.

“There is a significant reduction in the developmental budget allocation for the health sector, healthcare delivery capacity and the supply of medicine,” he added.

In the post-pandemic national budget, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday proposed allocating Tk 38,052 crore for the country's health sector while he proposed the total national budget of Tk 7,61,785crore for the upcoming fiscal year 2023-24.  While the overall budget growth is about 12.34 percent for the fiscal year 2023-24, the minister proposed a 3.23 percent or Tk 1,189 crore increase for the health sector than the fiscal year 2022-23.      He proposed Tk 29,431 crore for the Health Service Division for the next fiscal which is only a Tk 150 crore more compared to the current fiscal year's proposed allocation of Tk 29,281 crore.

In the outgoing fiscal, the amount was however revised down to TK 23,052 crore.

The Medical Education and Family Welfare Division received a proposed allocation worth Tk 8,681 crore for the next fiscal, which was Tk 7,582 crore as proposed for the FY 2022-23.

In the proposed budget, an amount of Tk22,588 crore was allocated for operating while Tk15,464 crore allocated for the development of the health sector. 

The proposed allocation is 5 percent of the total budget outlay while the World Health Organization (WHO) sets at least 15 percent of the total national budget and 5 percent of the country’s GDP on health as a minimum requirement for a country.

About the proposed health budget, Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement, said, "It is inadequate allocation for the health budget.”

He said the poor growth of only Tk around 2,000 crore of the allocation for the health sector will meet the incremental costs and inflationary measures and the budget cannot ensure improved health services for the people.

“People’s Out of Pocket expenditure for health services will rise and poor patients will suffer. There is no step to face the increasing healthcare costs for the internal market situation,” Rashid-e-Mahbub added.

Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury, secretary-general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), told the Daily Sun that the proposed health budget is not enough to cater to the needs of the health sector. “We urge the government to increase the budgetary allocation for the health sector through revising it.”

He said it is difficult to ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with the proposed health budget.

Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury further said there is no mention in the proposed health budget that how the next outbreaks will be faced as dengue outbreak has already turned alarming and some other outbreaks like diarrhoea may happen and coronavirus infection may return anytime. 

Prof Dr Mohammed Shadrul Alam, secretary general of Bangladesh Health Economist Forum, said the increase in the proposed health budget is very much poor and it will be difficult to face the challenges with the allocation.

“More allocation is needed for the health budget. The government should also ensure spending the allocated amount in the health sector for giving proper health care services to the people,” he added.