Diagnostic rip-off

Dhaka,  Tue,  22 August 2017
Published : 08 Jul 2017, 20:22:21
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Editorial

Diagnostic rip-off

That private hospitals and diagnostic centres have been charging patients exorbitantly high for their services is no secret. In fact, they have been enjoying full freedom in fixing their individual rates in the matters of pathological tests, radio imaging and all other medical diagnostics. But while doing so, a number of large private hospitals and leading diagnostic centres are now hurting the patients financially. Even patients belonging to the middleclass are finding it difficult to seek their services. Indeed, the private hospitals and diagnostic centres are charging their service-seekers much higher fees and making undue profit. And how unfairly they have been doing this has amply been highlighted in a report published in this paper last Saturday.  

The FE report has revealed how wide and absurd the gap that exists between the fees charged by the public and private health facilities in matters of diagnostic tests. Some posh private hospitals would charge eight to ten times more fees than that of the country's premier public hospital -- the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital -- for some bio-chemical and other tests. Patients are made to pay a fee ranging between Tk.500 and 600 by posh hospitals and leading private diagnostic centres for a test that would require best quality reagents valued at only Tk. 15. There is no denying that the providers of such health facilities offer quality service. Yet there should be a limit to their profiting-making. 

The hard truth is that most operators in the country's health sector do not bother about any sort of control, self-imposed or otherwise. The private hospitals and diagnostic centres are no exceptions. The government in a way has granted them total freedom to fix their rates, quite arbitrarily in most cases. The military regime of General Ershad had tried to exercise some control over diagnostic fees and charges in 1982 through a martial law order. But the move fizzled out after some days and the private health facilities returned to their old way of fixing diagnostic charges whimsically. Since then the government has taken no initiative to rein in these errant health sector operators. 

However, the owners of these private health facilities cite a couple of points while defending their positions. They claim their services to be better than those of public hospitals and the commission they pay to doctors against referrals for diagnostic tests. The second reason points to the deepening rot in the country's healthcare system. Physicians, drug manufacturers and private health facilities are part of the nexus that has been thriving at the cost of poor patients. In some cases, the rate of commission that private diagnostic centres pay to physicians is as high as 50 per cent of the fees.  

In the words of a former leader of the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), the developments centring the private diagnostics actually represent the state of anarchy now prevailing in the country's health sector. The directorate of health services does not deny the high-handedness on the part of the private diagnostics, but it tends to cover up its failure citing shortage of manpower that is necessary for proper monitoring. The government should no longer allow this sort of freedom for the private hospitals and diagnostic centres that enable the latter to rip off patients whimsically. It should fix reasonable fees for diagnostic tests through consultations with all stakeholders without any further delay and has also to be tough about enforcing the same.    
ADDRESS
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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