Bangladesh, Chittagong – On average, more than three thousand Bangladeshi citizens enter India every day for various reasons like medical, travel, business, and education. According to the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 45% of all foreigners who travel to India for treatment come from Bangladesh.
Last year, more than 1.5 million Bangladeshis were issued Indian visas. At present, 65.61% of foreign tourists arrive from Bangladesh. One of these visiting medical patients is Saimum Iftekhar, who has been undergoing treatment in India since 2016 for leg cancer. Since he did not have the opportunity to receive treatment for his cancer in Bangladesh, he sought treatment from a hospital in Vellore. He also mentioned that services for complex diseases were scarce in Bangladesh and that there was an unnecessary increase in the cost of syndicating doctors among various diagnostic centers. “Not only me, but thirty percent of the patients in the hospital where I take treatment are from Bangladesh. I don’t trust Bangladeshi doctors, so I went to India”, he explained.
Another example is Solaimon Rafi, Bangladesh’s young short filmmaker. He underwent fat surgery at the Iqbalpur Medical Center in Kolkata in 2019. Bangladeshi doctors wanted 50 thousand BDT for his surgery. Comparatively, Kolkata asked for 23 thousand rupees (BD Currency 25 thousand 608 BDT). “I have confidence in Indian doctors because they care for me”, he said. “I didn´t get that in Bangladesh.” When asked about the surgery he replied, “An Indian doctor told me 10 days post-operation, I could have the stitches removed. So I´m back in Dhaka after 10 days and went to Manikganj Sadar Hospital. An on-duty doctor checked my stitches and said after four more days the stitches can be removed, not now. He also prescribed seven more days of medicine. I went to buy medicine and faced a serious expense. The same drug sold for 2900 BDT in the first pharmacy, I was doubtful so I checked another and it was 2100 BDT. A third price check revealed 1900 BDT for the same medication. When I contacted the doctor in Kolkata, he said no medicine was needed. Later I went to a private hospital to have the stitches cut out, but they had mixed with the skin. This was the situation.” He described.
Around Tk 5 lakh 68 thousand crore has been finalized in the budget for the 2020-2021 financial year in Bangladesh. Combining development and non-development expenditure in the health sector, an increase of Tk 5,086 million has been made over the current financial year, allocating Tk 25,623.06 million. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), a country’s health sector allocation should be at least 5% of the GDP and 15 percent of the budget. At present, the WHO maintains the current per capita health expenditure is 2,000 dollars in the Maldives, 369 dollars in Sri Lanka, 267 dollars in India, 129 dollars in Pakistan, and a mere 88 dollars in Bangladesh.
According to the Director of General Bangladesh Health Services, a 2018 report stated there are 592 government hospitals and 5,054 registered private hospitals and clinics. The report also listed 9,529 private diagnostic centers, 52,807 hospital beds under the DGHS, and 90,587 hospital beds in private hospitals.
Dr. Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury Dulal, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), said “The whole world is jealous to see the improvement of the BD health sector .” When asked why people are going to India for treatment, he replied “The news of going to India for treatment is completely baseless, so many people do not go there and doctors do not refer them. The job of the media is just published news piece by piece. Most of the newspapers create propaganda that´s not true.”
Hospital director Dr. Deepak Shukla said, “The world medical tourism market is around 54 billion dollars. India earns 9 billion dollars and Bangladeshi patients contribute fifty percent. Bangladeshi patients spend about 4.5 billion dollars on medical tourism in India every year.” He added that the market for medical tourism is growing at a rate of up to 15% every year. “We lack good quality cancer hospitals.” He admitted. “At the same time, the government has no control. As a result, many unexpected things are happening. It´s not possible to change everything overnight, but we have to start. Otherwise, the Indian market may double.”
In Bangladesh, the health care system has improved a lot. However, many areas still lack adequate treatment. We can´t let our hard-earned 4.5 billion dollars go to another country. Bangladesh needs to build more modern hospitals. By doing so, patients will no longer seek treatment in India.