Even though there are top-notch doctors in Bangladesh, many people travel abroad for treatment because they cannot rely on local medical systems, according to health experts and patients.

In some cases, they said, patients find medical treatment relatively more cost-effective in some countries than hospitals in Bangladesh.

“The behavior of health workers, including doctors, also matters… it is very important to me and to others,” said Mujibur Rahman, a retired engineer.

According to health care observers, mismanagement, lack of manpower and a poor waste management system, widespread corruption and irregularities, insincerity of staff and casual oversight of the authorities concerned are the main obstacles to guaranteeing quality treatment and a favorable environment for patients in almost all public services in the country. and private hospitals.

They said the country’s healthcare system needs a complete overhaul to ensure quality treatment and diagnostics at local hospitals and diagnostic centers to discourage people from going abroad for treatment. and to verify that huge foreign currencies do not fly away every year.

Speaking to UNB, former World Health Organization (WHO) regional adviser Muzaherul Huq, former director (disease control) of DGHS Be-Nazir Ahmed and public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin) commented.

Growth of outgoing medical tourists

According to a report published by The Times of India on July 24 this year, a large majority of medical tourists – 54.3% – who visited India last year were from Bangladesh, followed by 9% from Iraq. , 8% from Afghanistan, 6% from Maldives and 4.5% from a group of African nations.

Citing data released by the Indian Union Ministry of Tourism, the report also states that Bangladesh accounted for 23.6% of medical tourists in 2009, while the Maldives had the highest share at 57.5%. While Bangladesh’s share has increased, that of the Maldives has declined over the past 10 years.

A recent survey report by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) indicated that a large portion of people travel to different countries in Bangladesh mainly for treatment.

Among outgoing tourists from Bangladesh in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the report, 60.41% went to India only.

The BBS report states that 29 percent of total Bangladeshi tourists overseas spent money on receiving treatment in different countries.

In fiscal year 2018-19, Bangladeshis spent Tk 9,933 crore on overseas processing, while total overseas tourist spending was Tk. 33,680 crores.

According to the Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operators Forum, an average of eight lakhs travel abroad for treatment from Bangladesh each year, while India is the preferred destination for them. The other main destinations for Bangladeshi medical tourists are Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Many wealthy people also travel to the US, UK, and Dubai for treatment.

Experts, however, said that the actual numbers of Bangladeshi medical tourists overseas and their spending are much higher.

Possible reasons

Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed said that there are many good hospitals and qualified doctors in Bangladesh, but not all hospitals can provide quality treatment.

“There are a lot of qualified doctors and good hospitals, mainly in Dhaka. But the country’s many districts lack quality hospitals and doctors. What is more worrying is that many doctors compromise with drug companies and hospitals because they order unnecessary tests and drugs, causing a lack of public confidence, ”he said.

The expert said that many people have a negative impression that they can be cheated or subjected to mistreatment and excessive medical bills for many serious illnesses if they visit private hospitals in Bangladesh. “This is why many people prefer to go abroad, including India, for treatment. “

In addition, he said, there is a serious problem that many doctors in Bangladesh are unwilling to communicate properly with their patients because they find it unnecessary.

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“In fact, many patients are receiving similar treatment as far away as India. Yet they are happy because the doctors there are polite and give them full attention, ”observed Dr Be-Nazir.

He said the cost of treatment is relatively cheaper in the neighboring country. “The quality of their diagnostic centers is better than ours. We have many laboratories where proper testing is not possible.

In addition, the expert said, some people, mainly the wealthy, consider treatment abroad to be a matter of prestige. “Our many politicians and government officials travel abroad for treatment of simple illnesses, giving people the wrong message about the country’s health system.”

Prof Muzaherul Huq said there was a shortage of doctors, nurses, cleaners, medical technologists and other health workers in many public and private hospitals. “Thus, patients are denied the right to receive appropriate treatment. More importantly, they are not satisfied with the services of the local hospitals.

“We have world-class doctors, but we are losing a lot of money because many people go abroad for treatment because they cannot rely on the country’s health system,” he said. observed.

Dr Lenin, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Health and Hope Hospital, said many people travel abroad for treatment mainly to avoid mismanagement, hassle and suffering in private hospitals and public across the country.

He said medical expenses in many Indian hospitals are lower than in Bangladesh. “The cost of quality treatment is much higher in private hospitals in Bangladesh. “There are irregularities and mismanagement when it comes to medical bills in private hospitals.”

Health sector overhaul

Dr Be-Nazir said the government should now focus on a rigorous overhaul of the health sector with a master plan to improve the health system and the services of private and public hospitals. “Appropriate training is needed for our doctors to improve their communication skills and professional attitude. “

In addition, he said, the government should prepare a policy for the private health sector to keep its services affordable and force them to maintain quality.

“Our politicians, our senior officials go abroad for examinations or treatment. They can take advantage of these services here. This will help build people’s confidence in local hospitals, ”the expert said.

He said most private hospitals in Bangladesh are unprofessional because they only focus on money instead of improving services. “The staff of the DGHS must be increased to improve their capacity to properly monitor private and public hospitals. “

Dr Lenin said full authority is now imperative to oversee and help the private health sector thrive and ensure user-friendly, quality and cost-effective services.

He said the government should place the private health sector within a legal framework to improve its quality, professionalism and restore people’s confidence in it.

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A senior journalist who has been hospitalized twice in a year said that ensuring hospital hygiene is also very important in attracting patients to local medical facilities, as hospitals in India are doing. “Whatever we do, we must do it with sincerity. No one can deny the fact that patients always seek more compassion than market services. “