The kidney dialysis patients at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital have been dealt a mortal blow. Already they are suffering from a life-threatening disease. On the other hand, the dialysis fee at the hospital has been hiked exorbitantly. This has left them in a difficult situation. They now need to choose between life and death. They must spend a much higher amount of money for their treatment. If they fail, there is the only way left and that is to embrace death.
According to the patents' relatives, the haemodialysis centre at CMCH had been providing services to the patients under the management of a private company since 2017. It entered an agreement with the CMCH for rendering the services. The centre was charging the patients Tk 486 per session while the government was providing the remaining amount of Tk 2,180 in subsidy. A kidney patient needed to undergo dialysis eight times a month. The patients claimed that they were paying Tk 2,795 for the first two sessions and Tk 510 for each of the rest.
Now, the hospital authorities have raised the fee further. Patients are now required to pay Tk 2,935 for each of the first four sessions and Tk 535 for each of the remaining sessions in a month.
A mother of a patient has a questioned the rationale for such raised charges. But she did not get the answer. Her one child was regularly visiting the dialysis centre. She was somehow managing the money to pay for it while her two children were almost starving at home. If she pays for the kidney dialysis of her one child, the two other children starve at home. Or, if she buys food for her two children, her other child will die in the absence of his kidney dialysis. Now what can the mother do? The stark reality is that she is left with no choice. She has already turned pauper paying for the treatment. If the fees are raised exorbitantly in such a situation, it comes as a mortal blow to the families like hers. A patient said he sold his property to pay for the dialysis service. The stories of all the patients, especially those from the poor families, are almost like this.
Medical cost in our country is a big burden on the fixed income people. Add to it the educational expenses. The middle class families are finding it difficult to make ends meet at a time when the inflationary pressure is leaving its telling effect.
However, the government was providing a cash subsidy to make up for the cost of services at the CMCH dialysis centre. But what compelled the authorities concerned to cut the subsidy amount, when the access to healthcare is the fundamental right of a citizen. The public expenditure on health still remains stagnant at 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Out-of-pocket expenditure on health is very high in our country. If it is not brought under control, it will remain a thorn in the side of the country's graduation from the least developed country (LDC) status by 2026.