Among the parliamentarians, Dr Samil Uddin Ahmed Shimul (Chapai Nawabganj-1), Habibe Millat (Sirajganj-2), Pran Gopal Dutta (Comilla-7), AF M Ruhal Haque (Satkhira-3), Md Abdul Aziz (Sirajganj-3), and state minister of disaster management and relief Md Enamur Rahman (Dhaka-19) were present as discussants.

Expert panelists at the online session were Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, convener of Bangladesh Health Watch; SM Zulfiqar Ali, senior research fellow of BIDS; and Syed Abdul Hamid, professor of Dhaka University.

Unnayan Shamannay chair and former governor of Bangladesh Bank professor Atiur Rahman presented the keynote paper while Bangladesh Health Watch Budget Thematic Group chair- professor Rumana Haque moderated the session.

While presenting the keynote paper Atiur Rahman urged to come out the practice of allocating 5 to 6 per cent of the total national budget for health sector.

He also pointed out that usually 25 per cent of the health sector allocations go for primary healthcare. This should be increased to 30 per cent in the coming fiscal year and increased to 35-40 per cent within the medium term.

Atiur further added that if the allocations for providing free-of-cost medicine for the people can be tripled then the out-of-pocket health expenditure can be reduced from 68 per cent to 58 per cent.

Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury suggested establishing a national commission to ensure quality primary healthcare.

Claiming the poor people have to spend 33 per cent of their income for healthcare, SM Zulfiqar Ali emphasised in developing a health insurance program for them. He said, “Health shock (high health expenditure) is a burden for marginalised population. Therefore, it is a high time we should start health commission, health insurance and a collaboration with government, private and NGO partnership.”

State minister of disaster management and relief Md Enamur Rahman pointed out that the government’s commitment to ensure quality healthcare for all is reflected through ensuring Covid-19 vaccination for 80 per cent of the population within a short time. He believes if this efficiency can be replicated across the entire health sector, then it will be possible to ensure quality healthcare for all in the country.

Former health minister Ruhal Haque and Habibe Millat emphasised on decentralisation of the health sector management in improving service delivery. Both the members of the parliament also emphasised the lack of manpower issue. They said we need at least 500,000 doctors to serve the huge population, whereas we have only 100,000 doctors.

Pran Gopal Dutta, in his remarks, highlighted the need to enhance capacity of the drug administration to ensure the quality control of the medicine and the need to allocate budget for universal health insurance.

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