Atiur said the authorities considered the existing macroeconomic realities while formulating the budget for FY23. They could have been a bit more liberal given the high demand for allocations in this sector.

He noted that the rural people now bear around 68 per cent costs of primary healthcare costs. The amount could be reduced to 51 per cent had the government allocated Tk 80 billion more for the health sector.

Former information minister Hasanul Huq Inu attended the dialogue as the chief guest while the special guests were Dr Pran Gopal Dutta, lawmaker of Cumilla-2 constituency; and Lutfun Nesa Khan, MP elect from reserved women seat.

Addressing the dialogue, Hasanul Huq Inu laid emphasis on formulating a five-year plan for the health sector giving the highest priority to ensuring universal primary healthcare and making allocations in the budget accordingly.

Dr Pran Gopal Dutta described the health insurance schemes as a way forward to ensure access to quality and affordable healthcare for all. He believes that the government should start piloting health insurance schemes as soon as possible.

Other recommendations of the dialogue include increasing allocations for primary healthcare to reduce ‘out-of-pocket health expenditure’, and increasing the supply of free medicine and availability of diagnostic facilities at all government healthcare centers.

Representatives from different government and non-government bodies related to public health participated in the question-answer session. Major points discussed were the lack of funding to deal with non-communicable diseases, the inadequacy of training on administration and accounts for health cadres, limited access to government-run health facilities in urban areas, etc.

Chaos and mismanagement were addressed by most of the participants. Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director of health directorate, said, “We have serious mismanagement in the health sector and that is only because of the lack of efficient people. Right people are not in the right position. We are making well-equipped hospitals in upazilla levels but some of them are remaining empty because of the lack of medical technicians, doctors, nurses etc.”

Morsheda Chowdhury, director, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme of BRAC, stressed the issue of more public and private collaboration.

On behalf of the organisers, Bangladesh Health Watch thematic group chair Professor Dr Rumana Haque delivered the welcome speech, and Unnayan Shamannay’s project coordinator Zahid Rahman moderated the session.

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