Till August 17 this year, dengue patients in the country have spent an estimated Tk 2.04 billion on treatment and related expenses, according to a study conducted by Dhaka University’s Institute of Health Economics.

The study, however, did not take into account the economic costs which the government has incurred due to dengue.

When Mohammed Limon, a student of Rajendra College in Faridpur, came to Dhaka for dengue treatment, he was admitted to Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital. Treatment was free as it was a government hospital, but he had to pay around Tk 10,000 for certain tests that had to be done outside and also for food, as he could not eat the hospital meals.

Outside of this Tk 10,000, there were expenses for his mother and friend to accompany him and stay in Dhaka, losses incurred by his mother for staying away from work, as well as losses in studies for both him and his friend. Limon was satisfied with the treatment and has returned home cured, but the economic costs have been high for this farmer family.

Another dengue patient from Mohammedpur in Dhaka, Farzana Chowdhury, had to pay Tk 55,123 for treatment from 15 to 21 August at a hospital in Shyamoli. This included admission fees, bed charges, tests, doctor’s fees, medicines and meals. The family was unavailable to give an estimate of other miscellaneous expenses.

In the last financial year of 2018-19, the allocations for Dhaka North and South city corporations to destroy mosquitoes and mosquito larvae was Tk 260 million and Tk 250 million respectively. It is now apparent that the insecticide that had been used was ineffective.

Virologist Nazrul Islam said, people are suffering simply because the spread of Aedes mosquitoes was not contained in time. The two city corporations of Dhaka and relevant government bodies are responsible for this failure. In any other county perhaps legal action would have been taken against them.

Professor Syed Abdul Hamid, former director of the Institute of Health Economics, visited 10 public and private hospitals over the past month along with a team of students, to assess the economic costs of dengue. Among the private hospitals, Square, United, Apollo, Asghar Ali and similar hospitals were placed in category A of the survey. Category B included the private hospitals Popular, Central, Ibne Sina and LabAid.

Syed Abdul Hamid told Prothom Alo it was not possible to calculate the expenses of dengue patients from all around the country in this study. They did not get information on all patients at the private hospitals either. There were thousands of outdoor patients who also were not accounted for. The expenses borne by patients who visited doctors at their private chambers were also not taken into account. No private hospital outside of Dhaka was included in the study.

In terms of taka

According to the draft survey, average expenditure per patient in a public hospital was near around Tk 5000. In the case of category A private hospitals, the costs were around Tk 150,000. For category B private hospitals this was Tk 53,500 on average. These expenses include physicians’ fees, tests, medicines, food, transport, hospitals bills, etc. There are other overhead costs too which are often not taken into calculation.

Disorganised preventive measures

The Dhaka University study did not cover expenditure on dengue prevention. Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said the government should normally be bearing the costs of disease prevention. But in the case of dengue, the people are having to spend large amounts of money themselves.

Dengue began to spread rapidly from July this year. Along with spiraling hospitals costs, the cost of insecticides also leapt up.

Speaking at a roundtable organised by Prothom Alo on 29 July, homemaker Sangeeta Rahman said, “We now spend more on killing mosquitoes than food.”

Sangeeta’s 10-year-old daughter had be hospitalised with dengue and is back home now, but the fear lingers. They spend considerable sums on spray insecticides, mosquito repellent creams and mosquito coils. The insecticide causes breathing problems. People are also buying electric bats to kill mosquitoes.

Business manger of pharmaceutical and insecticide company ACI, Kamrul Hasan, said that sale of their anti-mosquito spray has shot up three to four times.

Dhaka University researchers said that along with the economic costs, there is the fear and the suffering. This cannot be accounted for in terms of money.

* This report has appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir