The proposed budget for the health and family welfare sector has failed to meet the expectations of public health analysts.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in his budget speech on Thursday proposed Tk38,052 crore for the health sector for FY24. The allocation was Tk36,863 crore in the last financial year.
“Ensuring quality and people-friendly healthcare is one of the election pledges of our government. We are working to implement this commitment,” he said while unveiling the budget.
He said efforts are being made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by expanding the prioritised healthcare services, engaging more people and reducing out-of-pocket expenditures.
Public health specialist Dr Lelin Choudhury does not see any “good message” for the public in the proposed health sector budget.
“Covid-19 pandemic showed us where we need to pay attention in the health sector. Unfortunately, there is no reflection on this budget. We need to think about restructuring the health sector,” he told Dhaka Tribune, in an instant reaction.
“On one hand, allocation is not increasing as expected. It’s still less than 1% of the GDP. On the other hand, the health ministry cannot use whatever budget they get every year,” he explained.
“Health budget is not just an increase of allocation. You must have a clear vision of how to enhance the skills of doctors, nurses and technicians. How will you run community clinics effectively? Everything from preventive, to curative, palliative and rehabilitative must be addressed efficiently to ensure better health services in a population like us,” he said. “The budget lacks that vision.”
The minister highlighted the objective of Perspective Plan 2021-2041 regarding the health, nutrition and population sector, and said it was aimed at improving the number and quality of manpower employed in the health sector.
Under this plan and the National Health Policy 2011, quality improvement and modernisation of medical and nursing education as well as educational institutions are getting priorities.
The government is taking necessary steps to bring all postgraduate degrees in medical education under a single umbrella, modernise the examination system and provide training for teachers, the finance minister said.
“We are setting up medical universities in the divisional cities. The work of setting up Rajshahi Medical University has started and the project for setting up universities in Sylhet and Chittagong is under consideration,” he said.
“Some other projects have also been taken up for the establishment of medical colleges in Magura, Netrakona, Naogaon and Habiganj districts.”