Dialysis fees must be decreased

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

On one hand the government is highlighting the development of the health sector, while on the other hand the police are assaulting patients and their families for taking to the streets in demand of lower fees for dialysis.

According to Prothom Alo reports, the kidney dialysis centre was set up on the ground floor of the Chittagong Medical College Hospital with 31 machines on 5 March 2017 under the public private partnership (PPP). Sandor Dialysis Services Bangladesh Pvt Ltd is running this service. Seven machines are running under Chittagong Medical College Hospital's management. The subsidised fee for one dialysis session under the hospital's management is Tk 418 and under Sandor, Tk 535.

On 1 January the organisation suddenly hiked its dialysis fee from Tk 510 to Tk 535. The fees without subsidy was hiked from Tk 2,785 to Tk 2,935. Also, the hospital has decided that the patients who would receive subsidised service for 8 to 12 dialyses a month, will now get subsidy for 4 to 6 times a month. The remaining dialysis will cost Tk 2,935.

Patients and their relations have been demonstrating since Saturday, demanding that this decision be withdrawn. On Tuesday, when around 200 persons created a blockade on the road in front of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, a team of police led by the Panchlaish police station officer-in-charge (OC), tried to disperse them. Many of the patients lay down on the street in protest. A patient, Md Asadul Huq, was assaulted and injured by the police and was admitted to hospital. Many other patients were also injured in the police action, according to Prothom Alo reports.

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This incident reveals the pitiful state of the country's health sector. Why does an institution like Chittagong Medical College Hospital not build up its own capacity instead of hiring a private organisation to do the job? Director of Chittagong Medical College Hospital Brigadier General, Md Shameem Ahsan, told Prothom Alo that according to government directives, 6500 persons are to be provided dialysis on subsidy. But the number of patients is much higher.

The hospital authorities have sent a proposal to the health minister to increase this subsidy, but have not received any response as yet. However, there is no answer as to why they are not increasing their own capacity instead of relying on a hired organisation for dialysis.

Bangladesh's allocation for the health sector is not only lower than that in the developed world, but lower in comparison to South Asian countries too. And a large chunk of the allocation is spent on constructing infrastructure and on salaries and allowances. As a result, poor and low-income people are deprived of health services and, having no alternative, have taken to the streets. How many more beatings will the patients have to suffer for the authorities to wake up?

The increased fees for dialysis at all government hospitals, including Chittagong Medical College Hospital, must be brought down. It is unacceptable that the health ministry authorities remain silent while people going to avail emergency services like dialysis, are assaulted.