A recent letter from the well known and respected ENT Surgeon Dr. Cynthia Jayasuriya in the Daily Mirror of July 25 under the interesting caption “Kill the bill OR the man” has provoked me into writing this to thank her for drawing attention to an important issue of drugs being sold to us by pharmacists, and another issue which I personally wish to draw attention to; the fleecing of unfortunate patients by private hospitals. As a senior citizen who served the country for almost four decades I must confess that my pension compels me to go to the government hospital where I must say the doctors, the nurses are absolutely professional. The minor staff are also kind and helpful.
To revert to Dr. Cynthia Jayasuriya’s letter, she draws our attention to a matter that has escaped most of us; the quality of the drugs being sold to us. It appears that we are being taken for a ride by those involved in this most lucrative trade which sadly involves the making of millions without any consideration it is at the expense of human beings. My thoughts go back to Dr. Senaka Bibile who made a valiant effort to clean up this drug business but failed because of the forces that ranged against him.
Dr J states that “Generic drugs are cheaper so we think we should use them. No one bothers about the quality of these generic drugs, which are sold for a few rupees less than the original branded drugs”. She goes on to say that much of what is sold to us is ‘RUBBISH” wasting our foreign exchange; she says that “very stringent powers should be given to the import controller and Customs to stop nefarious medicinal drugs entering the country”. She also says that the drugs must be evaluated (by competent professionals of course)by obtaining samples at random from private pharmacies and from the government medical stores as every new batch of drugs comes in to ensure that only quality drugs are sent in. Dr. J concludes on an interesting note, For all these we need honesty and integrity which are very rare today; let us build them up again!”
Providing healthcare and education to the people is considered an obligation of the State in this Buddhism influenced society. All Sri Lankans are grateful to our past leaders who transformed our society into one which reached the highest social indicators in South Asia.
"Generic drugs are cheaper so we think we should use them. No one bothers about the quality of these generic drugs, which are sold for a few rupees less than the original branded drugs"
Today, tragically as it were, both medicare and education are being viewed as ‘commodities’ and opportunities for ‘good business’ and a concept being promoted by the US based World Bank which advocates the rolling back of public services. So healthcare and education are not being viewed as having a special sanctity and being for the ‘public good’ but opportunities to make money.
Our government has an important role to play in providing the people these facilities free, for in a developing country, they are not mere commercial propositions, as viewed by the US influenced values of the World Bank. Their intention is to develop the private sector at the expense of the people. Today the middle class and us senior citizens in particular spend almost 40% of their income on drugs to stay alive. It is not only the pharmaceutical industry which is virtually killing us but also the private hospitals, the middle class, finds it almost impossible to use instead of going to government hospitals where hundreds of patients queue from five in the morning to see a doctor. We have no option but to go to a private hospital that fleece us helpless patients. It does not requires elaboration either.
Minister Senaratne, the Prime Minister nor the President seem to care, for they have done nothing to control these private institutions. We must have laws governing private hospitals and the government should at the very least appoint an Ombudsman to each and every hospital to ensure that helpless patients are not exploited by those who run hospitals as places of business at the expense of the sick and old.
"We have no option but to go to a private hospital that fleece us helpless patients"