This is no small sum: Bangladeshis are spending $4 billion annually for medical treatment abroad.
This is despite the fact that many international standard health facilities are now available in the country.
Quoting Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operators Forum a report of this daily yesterday mentioned on an average 800,000 people go abroad for treatment every year from Bangladesh with India being the most favourite destination for these patients.
The other countries are Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
Rich people also go to the USA, the UK and the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment.
If health service in Bangladesh’s hospitals improves a little, it could save hundreds of crores of dollars that it spends for medical tourism abroad.
It is not that patients are going to India, Thailand and Singapore for the treatment of very critical diseases not available in the country, even for a bypass surgery of heart or angioplasty patients are opting for these places.
Not all bypass surgery or angioplasty patients, however, go abroad. Only those who can afford these treatments there go.
For the relatively poor patients, the bypass surgery or stenting is being done here, and these patients are also keeping well.
Obviously, there is also a trust deficit among the patients on the country’s health care service for which about lakhs of them are moving to other countries.
Surprisingly in some cases, patients find going to India lucrative because the cost of treatment for many diseases are lesser in India than in Bangladesh.
There are, however, reasons for this trust deficit. First, even the costly private hospitals here have failed to create a patient-friendly treatment environment.
Hospital staffs including doctors and nurses often do not behave with patients with the courtesy and care that they deserve which in countries abroad they get the full.
Moreover, if not in all cases, in some cases of course, doctors and technicians in these countries have an edge over their Bangladeshi counterparts in terms of expertise.
These edges they have over Bangladeshi health professionals come more from the honesty they have rather than their merits.
Without any prick of conscience, ministers and high officials go abroad for treatment often at the expense of public money even for minor health reasons.
They do not pay the needed attention to improve the country’s health system.
A little improvement in quality and physicians’ behaviour, however, can stop Bangladeshis from going abroad for medical treatment.