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Dengue takes centre stage in health sector

Though he became a full minister of the health ministry this time, Zahid Malek’s performance has been lacklustre at the best. In fact, it was an accounts officer of the medical education department but it was dengue that took centre stage in the health sector this year.

It was dengue that made a big difference between 2018 and 2019. Everything else was more or less the same. In the budget announced last June, 5 per cent of the total was allocated to the health sector. In 2018 the allocation was 4.9 per cent. There was neither any significant progress nor any drastic failures in the health sector. But the fear remains that dengue may hit hard again in 2020.

Among its commitments made for the 30 December 2018 election, Awami League had pledged free health care for infants under one year of age and adults over 65. It had pledged to set up medical colleges in all divisional towns, provide heart, cancer and kidney treatment in all medical college hospitals, and set up hospitals of at least 100 beds in every divisional town with cancer and kidney treatment facilities. It also committed to increasing the number of physicians in the rural health centres, improve the quality of medical treatment and ensure the presence of physicians. However, no deadline was given to meet these commitments.

At the end of the year, the government appointed 4,443 physicians through the BCS exam. This will somewhat address the shortage of physicians at the Upazila level. However, the general people still doubt whether these physicians will actually go to the villages. In the latest demographic and health survey, as well as a survey of health institutions, it was seen that the quality of health service had deteriorated.

Former president of Bangladesh Medical Association Rashid-e-Mahbub, speaking to Prothom Alo, say thai it is good that the government has appointed new physicians but it had not taken any effective measures to ensure that they remained at their posts. And the health ministry hadn’t specified the process of providing free health services to infants under one year old and adults over 65.

Zahid Malek was hardly active as state minister for health, under health minister Mohammed Nasim in the 2014-18 term. But as soon as he took over as health minister this term, he immediately transferred certain officials and employees who had been close to Nasim. The state minister of his ministry was former Chhatra League leader Murad Hasan MP, but Murad was suddenly transferred on 20 May this year to the information ministry. There were speculations that the two of them did not get along.

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