Many patients from across the country prefer going abroad for treatment, showing signs of lack of confidence in the local healthcare system, experts said.
Most of the patients travel for their treatment to India, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, they noted.
Sources said India attracts the highest number of medical tourists from Bangladesh while an estimated 425,000 patients travel to different south Asian countries for treatment every year.
Golam Mustafa, a retired government employee, has been suffering from lung disease for the past few years. He consulted with two physicians in Dhaka and after numerous medical investigations, the physicians told Golam Mustafa that he has lung cancer.
Not fully convinced, his family members took him to Kolkata and then they were referred to Chennai-Green Apollo.A group of doctors investigated Golam Mustafa’s ailments for five days and found out that Golam Mustafa has been suffering from complicated lung ailments, but that was not cancer.
Public health experts noted that outbound medical tourism will increase if the local healthcare institutions fail to gain the desired trust and confidence from the patients.
Dr Muhammad Abdus Sabur, a noted public health expert, said, “We have to create more confidence in our healthcare system by providing quality services. Medical tourism to South Asian countries will come down if the patients receive quality services from our public and private healthcare institutions.”
“Patients with complicated diseases like open heart surgery, kidney transplantation and liver cirrhosis go abroad for better treatment, but those treatments are possible in the country. But the doctors should be very cordial with the patients to help reduce medical tourism,” he also said.
He also called upon the government and private sector to take up a holistic approach to scale up their service quality in a bid to bring back the outgoing patients, adding that this will also help keep the money that would be otherwise spent abroad within the country.
Seeking anonymity, a senior clinician at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) told daily sun that the private hospitals in Dhaka charge around Tk 400,000 to Tk 600,000 for an open-heart surgery, but for the same surgery requires Tk 300,000 in Bangalore, India.
“If the owners of the private hospitals think about this, they might be able to cut their cost to a point which is lower than in India,” he added.
Responding to this issue, Director General of Directorate of Health Services Dr Abul kalm Azad said that government hospitals have comparatively better facilities but those remain fully packed with middle class and poor patients.
“We have some private hospitals that provide quality treatment, but their costs are excessively high,” he added.
We can offer medical tourism for the people of Nepal, Bhutan and even the people living in Calcutta by scaling up our services in the private sector, through which we can earn foreign currency, he said.