TBS: United Hospital is celebrating its 15th founding anniversary this year. Where does the hospital stand after completing this long journey?
Mohammad Faizur Rahman: What we have achieved in 15 years is that people have put their trust in us in times of need. Therefore, in the case of United Hospital, we can say we are a successful institution in terms of intention. The hospital was founded with the intent of providing international quality healthcare services. There is no room for compromise on this objective. But, we have scope to do better in the area with continuous efforts to improve the standard of services and we are working towards that goal.
As a private healthcare facility, what are the contributions United Hospital has made to the development of our health sector in the last 15 years?
MFR: United Hospital is devoted to uplift the healthcare service standards and in the process, more than 5,25,000 people believed in us with their health. Our continuous effort has established some dependable centers for the people of the country. Our Cardiac, Cancer, Renal, Mother & Child, Neurology and Medicine centers are exemplary for the country. Our ISO certified laboratory diligently performed more than 2 crore investigations over the past 15 years to get the results for the right diagnosis.
With more than 56,000 Cardiac Procedures and 14,000 cardiac surgeries, we have developed an unparalleled experience center and some great hands. Thanks to the trust in our Renal Care center, we have completed more than 3 lac dialysis. Cancer Care center of United Hospital has grown into a reliable home of almost 30,000 chemotherapy sessions. The emergency care treated every patient at their most vulnerable moments counting around 25,0000. We feel blessed to have served with proper dedication and commitment.
People from the healthcare would be aware that United Hospital is the first to introduce the transcatheter aortic valve implant procedure, radical cystoprostatectomy with orthotopic neoplastic reconstruction surgery and rare hernia surgery in the country but it is high time to inform the mass people of the country that alongside these achievements, we are also treating cancer patients with chronomodulated chemotherapy with success, United Hospital has completed around 2 lac radiotherapy sessions.
How did you prepare yourselves to deal with the Covid-19 situation?
MFR: Covid-19 is a special situation. Like everyone else in the world, none of us were ready for the pandemic. When countries with advanced health systems struggled, we had to learn in a very short period of time and treat our patients for the best results.
We kept in touch with the government and associate organisations concerned. Most of our consultants are experienced and well-connected to global health forums outside the country. We have maintained our connections with international and national forums and hospitals, exchanged our experiences in various ways, which has made our task of learning faster and easier.
We stood by the people with the intent to serve them; they are the reason we exist and certainly we are now much more confident, thanks to the cooperation of all the staff for respecting our decision to provide uninterrupted service to the people of the country and attending to every patient.
So far, we have been able to provide treatment to more than 70,000 Covid-19 patients and more than 3,000 were admitted and treated. Among them, there were many patients over the age of 90 (as old as 97 even), who recovered from Covid-19 by the blessings of the Almighty and the effort of our experienced physicians. Meticulous efforts from all ends were provided to help patients with comorbidity to recover well and get back to regular health. To the best of our abilities we have served and as a result, two cancer survivors recovered from Covid-19 at the age of 80.
How are you supporting the government to enhance the quality of our healthcare services?
MFR: There are many opportunities to work in the country's health sector. Coordinated efforts from public and private sectors is already helping the whole system to move forward; United is determined to support the industry playing a leading role as a precursor to the private sector.
United is motivated to set a new example with an accumulated total of 1,700-bed capacity planned to serve the people of the country across various regions under the United Health Care Services Limited. There is no denying that growth is needed to survive in this sector, but doing business is not the main purpose. Our path to growth and improvement is endless to ensure the basic health security of the people and commercial viability is a bi-product of the service and the care we render to the people.
Our overall approach includes supporting the government as well as leading the private sector. Covid-19 showed us there is no substitute to working together to bring about a positive change in the health system. A 200-bed multidisciplinary hospital in Jamalpur would be the first of its kind to set a benchmark. Followed by our strategic day care health center to be launched in Dhanmondi.
We agreed to sign the first 500-bed hospital and medical college public-private partnership (PPP). Another 500 bed medical college and hospital is also underway at Shatarkool as part of our plan to transform healthcare into a dependable industry.
What should be the plan to develop the overall healthcare sector?
MFR: Covid-19 has shown us that a 360-degree approach to the healthcare industry is highly required where our government can prioritise the healthcare sector much like the RMG and IT industry. I believe an accessible healthcare solution with a proper health insurance in place can reduce the out-of-pocket expense for the countrymen.
Here, informal treatment is a hindrance in the development of the sector. We need to prepare a hybrid model of health safety net to ensure the best care up to the last mile. Government can foster through encouraging benevolent funding i.e CSR fund, Zakaat fund from every sector to safeguard the population from all the social economic class.
Import cost of healthcare equipment and other associated consumables need to be reduced if we want to compete with our neighbouring countries in terms of price. Layers of taxes accumulate to as high as 30% which is a burden on the private sector as well as the people of the country. I would urge the government to revisit the taxation policy and reduce it to the benefit of the entire mass. I truly appreciate the recent SRO (statutory regulatory orders) from the government on tax holiday for the next 10 years on setting up hospitals around the country except Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram.
Requirement of skilled healthcare professionals is an imperative need for the growth of the sector. A similar tax-holiday period may encourage the private sectors to invest in a high number of medical colleges to develop more accomplished physicians for the country. Covid-19 has shown the scopes of improvement in the sector and I would urge the government to gradually increase the healthcare budget to 10-12% from 5% over the next few years. Last but not the least, with better price monitoring, the cost of drugs in Bangladesh can be reduced to make healthcare further affordable for the mass as the majority of drugs are produced in this country.
Healthcare grows with people's trust through the service they avail. There is no alternative. If we can build a skilled modern healthcare industry for our own 170 million people, patients from abroad also will come to the country for treatment through medical tourism. I believe this should be the vision and thus we also need to increase the capacity of our healthcare sector.
We have to be ready from all ends. Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to earn the trust of our patients and we need to make best use of the moment with great service and treatment. I dream of that day and the beginning of this change should be initiated by us now.