Tk 29,247 cr proposed for health giving priority to COVID-19 pandemic

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DHAKA, June 11, 2020 (BSS) – Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today proposed an allocation of Taka 29,247 crore for health sector in fiscal 2020-21 attaching special focus on COVID-19 pandemic.

While placing the national budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 at the Jatiya Sangsad, he said Taka 25,732 crore was proposed for health sector for the fiscal year 2019-20 while Taka 3,542 crore has increased in the current fiscal year incorporating different COVID-19 issues to fight the deadly virus.

The finance minister said this allocation is proposed for the health and family welfare sector giving a priority to activities undertaken to combat the COVID-19.

It is worth mentioning that currently 13 ministries and divisions are implementing programmes related to health and family welfare, he said, adding the allocation for this purpose in FY 2020-21 is Taka 41,027 crore, which is 1.3 percent of GDP and 7.2 percent of total budget allocations.

“We all are aware that the whole world is in dire stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bangladesh is no exception. Like other countries in the world, public health and public life in Bangladesh is facing challenges because of the pandemic, ” Kamal added.

“Through you, I would like to inform our people that since the first detection of coronavirus infection in Bangladesh in March this year, we have taken adequate preparatory measures to combat COVID-19,” he said.

The finance minister said, “Under the constant and overall guidance of the Prime Minister, we have taken all-out efforts to prevent the disease, contain infections and provide treatment against the disease.”

“No vaccine is invented yet. The WHO guideline of social distancing is the only remedy. By including ‘COVID-19’ into the list of infectious diseases, the whole country has been declared ‘infection risk area’ as per the Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018,” he added.

In mid-March, the government declared closure of all educational institutions and banned all types of public assembly and gathering, as these are the only means to protect the greater sections of the population from infection, Kamal added.

Such closure is considered as the only way to protect people at large from the virus, he said adding the government have declared general holidays across the country in the last week of March, which was continued till May 30.

After the formulation of the ‘National Preparedness and Response Plan’, its implementation has begun in right earnest to safeguard public life by ensuring medical treatment, Kamal said.

Specialised isolation units have been opened in all district and upazila hospitals and health complexes, he said, adding COVID-19 dedicated hospitals have been set-up in district towns to treat coronavirus patients, including 14 dedicated hospitals centrally in the capital.

Highlighting different initiatives to fight COVID-19, he said 55 laboratories have been established for corona detections, and various public health services institutions are being transformed into modern and developed service providing institutions.

“For this purpose, we have given an emergency allocation of Taka 529 crore for the health sector. We have decided to allocate additional funding, and provide incentives and compensation for the health sector to ensure necessary personal safety of service providers engaged in combating COVID-19,” the finance minister said.

 

Placing the budget at the Jatiya Sangsad, the finance minister said to provide compensation for the persons from different departments in case they get infected and succumb to death, and to provide honorarium to doctors, nurses and healthcare workers engaged in the treatment of coronavirus patients, an allocation of Taka 850 crore has been made.

“To provide treatment to coronavirus patients, 2 thousand doctors and 6 thousand nurses have been recruited on an urgent basis. Alongside, healthcare workers, including 386 medical technologists and 2 thousand 654 lab-attendants were recruited on outsourcing basis. Besides, 1 thousand 200 medical technologists, 1 thousand 650 medical technicians and 150 cardiographers all together 3 thousand posts have been created.” he added.

In addition to the provision of formal healthcare services, provision of COVID-19 related health services through mobile phones has been geared up, Kamal said, adding an screening app to trace the coronavirus infections and a national COVID-19 digital surveillance system with artificial intelligence to contain community infections of the virus and reduce risks have been developed. Twenty nine guidelines and eleven public awareness raising brochures have also been developed.

“It is worth mentioning that, as an emergency measure, two projects have been taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. One is the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project’ at a cost of Tk 1,127 crore with financial assistance from the World Bank,” Kamal added.

“The other one is the ‘COVID-19 Response Emergency Assistance’ of Taka 1,366 with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank. Implementation of these two projects has already begun. This will certainly enhance our capacity to fight COVID-19. Besides, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Government of Korea have made their commitments, and projects are under preparation,” the minister added.

“We have taken all out measures to improve the health sector. To combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we are implementing different programmes worth Taka 5,500 crore under the Health Services Division. The government will do whatever is required to be done to address the pandemic,” Kamal said.

“To fulfill emergency requirements, I propose to allocate Taka10,000 crore as lump sum. Ensuring Overall Health Services39. To ensure quality health services for the citizens of the country, we increased the allocation for the health sector, including that of the Sector Programme and projects, by a considerable amount in the last ten years.” Kamal added.

“In addition to ongoing sector programmes, we are also implementing various projects/activities to fulfill the government’s election pledges and improve infrastructure of the health sector. Most important of them include-establishment of new medical colleges in Kushtia, Sirajganj, Manikgonj, Jamalpur, Patuakhali, Tangail and Sunamganj, development of the e-health infrastructure to implement Digital Bangladesh, expansion of Shasthyo Surokhsha Karmasuchi 20(SSK) in eight upazilas, and establishment of secondary and tertiary health complexes at district, divisional and national levels. Setting up of Jashore, Cox’s Bazar, Pabna and Noakhali Medical College Hospitals have already been completed and their academic programmes have begun.” the finance minister added.

“Besides, to improve the treatment of heart-disease, kidney disease and cancer, 100-bed full-fledged cancer centres in Government Medical College Hospitals in Divisional City, 150-bed cardiovascular unit in the National Heart Foundation, kidney dialysis centres in existing medical college hospitals and nephrology units and kidney dialysis centers in all district headquarters hospitals will be established,” he added.

“We are implementing various measures to ensure quality health services for all citizens of the country. These include – increasing the manpower in the health sector, and considerably increasing the number of hospital beds, developing modern and IT-based information management system, introducing e-health service system, providing services through the health call centre named ‘Shastho Batayon’, expanding automation programmes in health centres, installing modern equipment, and providing 24-hour online services,” the finance minister said.

“As a result, impressive progress has been made in the development of health management. IT-based health services activities initiated in Bangladesh have already earned international accolades. Bangladesh has achieved 59 percent progress in providing essential services which was 34 percent in 2010,” finance minister Kamal said.

“As part of our pledge in previous years to establish a medical university in each division in the country, Chattogram, Rajshahi and Sylhet Medical Universities have already started functioning, and alongside, steps have been taken to build necessary infrastructural facilities in those universities,” he said.

“Programmes to establish other universities will begin gradually. To pay more attention to medical education, the government has already set up the ‘Directorate of Medical Education,’” Kamal said.

“The experience in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered a number of weaknesses in our health sector. As a result, the need to formulate plans to sustain our long-term achievements in this sector and prevent and combat the outbreak of similar pandemic/deadly diseases in future is being felt to take our health system to the level of developed countries,” he said.

“Time has come to ensure a better healthcare system for the citizens of Bangladesh by assimilating the country’s public health-medical education-health services developed through our own research with the developed world’s health-education and science and technology,” finance minister Kamal said.

“It is undeniable that we need to invent sustainable methods of combating any pandemic like corona in future and conduct proper research on epidemiology and disease control. We will have to engage ourselves strongly in health science, engineering and research related tasks,” Kamal added.

The finance minister said, “If we want to elevate ourselves to the developed country status, there is no alternatives to formulating an integrated health-education and science and technology research guideline, creating funds and increasing allocation for this sector.”

“Our government’s objective is to transform the health sector by developing a research culture in the country through formulating new policies or revising existing ones in coordination among different government departments, Kamal said, adding it is necessary to develop an integrated scientific research and development policy for health-education, science, technology and their research.

The objective of such policy or guideline will be to graduate the country to the level of the developed world in health-education and science and technology research.

While continuing our efforts to tackle pandemics like coronavirus in future and adopt different strategies needed to be applied at different stages of such pandemics, we will also continue relentlessly to enhance various collaborative efforts at home and abroad in developing efficient and trained manpower in the health sector and to reap the benefits of ‘science diplomacy’ and ‘technology diplomacy’. The aforesaid diplomacies will act as a powerful tool, which will enable us to work in cooperation with the developed world in conducting research on health-science, importing or adopting new technologies and spreading our own technologies across the world in the coming days. “I propose to form an ‘Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund’ of Tk. 100 crore to finance the activities for the development of research in health-education and science and technology,” Kamal said.

A high-powered committee consisting of experienced researchers in the health sector, nutritionists, public health experts, sociologists, economists, environmentalists, civil society and other suitable representatives will be formed to manage this Fund efficiently and effectively.

One of the important priorities of our government is to facilitate the development of the health sector by ensuring affordable and quality health services and nutrition for all citizens with the objective of building a healthy, prosperous and happy society. Especially, reaching quality health services to the doorsteps of the poor, rural and marginalised communities is one of the main commitments of the present government. Impressive progress has been made in the last decade in different indices of the health and family welfare sector, such as-reduction in maternal, child and neonatal mortality rates, increase in overall nutrition, increase in average life expectancy, decline in the stunting and low weight rates, etc., as an outcome of effective steps taken by the government. To ensure universal health for all by 2030, the government is implementing the 4thHealth, Population, Nutrition Sector Program from 2017 to 2022 at a cost of Tk. 1,15,400 crore, where 84 percent of the program cost is borne by the Government of Bangladesh. Ensuring Maternal and Child Healthcare and Providing Adolescent Health Services.

“To safeguard maternal and child health, we have been continuing the target-based reproductive health development programmes for women, and expanding community nutrition programs under the National Nutrition Services (NNS). The ‘Improvement of Child and Maternal Health System’ project and the ‘Maternal, Neonatal and Child Adolescent Health’ project are being implemented. Full time safe delivery services in 2 thousand 854 union health centres and emergency maternity services in 72 mother and child welfare centres have already been introduced,” the finance minister added.

Forty union health and family welfare centres, twenty five 10-bed mother and child welfare centres, three 20-bed hospitals, three 50-bed upazila health complexes and one 100-bed children hospital in Cumilla will be established in the current fiscal year. Provision of Health Services at the Grassroot Level. We have expanded health services to the grassroot level as part of our inclusive health policy.

10 district-level and 145 upazila-level family planning offices having provisions for family planning stores have been built. Besides, 13 thousand 812 community clinics have been in operation throughout the country. As many as seventy 10-bed Maternal and Child Welfare Centres (MCWC) at the union level will be set up, 250 community clinics (including re-furbishing) will be built, 2 thousand existing community clinics will be modernised, and 1 thousand 29 new community clinics will be set up. The Community Clinic Health Assistance Trust Act, 2018has been approved and a trust has been established. Telemedicine service is being provided in 65 upazilla hospitals and 27 district hospitals. Its scope will be gradually widened.Madam SpeakerInternational Recognition.

“The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) has been continuing under ‘The Fourth Health, Population and Nutritional Sector Programme’ (4th HPNSP) being implemented as a continuation of the First Sector Programme that started in 1998,” the finance minister said.

In his budget speech, he said as a result, the EPI coverage has risen from 2 percent in 1985 to 85 percent at the moment. Prime Minister has been given the ‘Vaccine Hero’ award by GAVI Secretariat in 2019 in recognition of Bangladesh’s outstanding success in the implementation of the EPI, he said adding in 2014, Bangladesh was declared a polio free country by the World Health Organisation, and the country is still maintaining this position.

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