Like a Miss World dying of cancer or the proverbial emperor without clothes, Sri Lanka is projecting a beautiful image mainly to promote its pet project of tourism. But behind this bright and beautiful image, most people are falling sick more often and getting sick and tired of the deceptive if not decadent politics of a largely dictatorial regime.
The life-or death health service is facing its gravest crisis with millions of people being forced to breathe polluted air and eat polluted or poisoned food while the Rajapaksa regime appears to have put in a mortuary the policy changes that are vitally necessary to restore a health service where the wellbeing of the patient is given top priority.
Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena recently revealed that a powerful mafia was trying to prevent him from introducing legislation for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on Professor Senaka Bibile’s essential medicines concept whereby quality drugs could be made available to the people at affordable prices. He said this demon mafia could not buy or frighten him, and he would present legislation soon for the NMDP. The Minister promised he would introduce the legislation in May, but now he is talking about doing it before the end of the year while health rights activists are sceptical about the regime’s intentions and honestly because the ‘soon’ has dragged on for eight years.
The Government, facing a foreign exchange crisis, appears to be betting far too much or playing too many cards for revenue from tourism and is even considering a plan to set up a huge casino with its side kick vices of bars and brothels in the heart of the city. UNP parliamentarian and economist Harsha de Silva claimed on Thursday the prime land for this casino had been sold at Rs. 3.6 million a perch though the real value of land in this area was more than Rs. 10 million a perch.
Instead of such disgraceful or degrading moves, the Government could save millions of dollars in foreign exchange if it implements the NMDP and stops the import of thousands of varieties of non-essential medicinal drugs under highly-expensive brand names.
With the devaluation of the rupee, medicinal drug prices are rising rapidly as are other costs of health care. For instance, most private clinics charge as much as Rs. 100/= even to check the pressure, while the costs of most other tests have soared beyond the four figure mark. Being admitted to most private hospitals for treatment will mean patients having to find, beg or borrow to pay inflated bills ranging from a few lakhs to millions for major operations.
In public hospitals the quality of treatment is going down and the rate of medical negligence going up largely because many doctors appear to be more interested in the big money they could make at private hospitals. One dedicated consultant who is in charge of a unit at a leading state hospital said that though he worked with commitment from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm at the public hospital, he found that some other doctors in the unit are disappearing by noon apparently to go early for their more lucrative practise. But the example set by the head of the unit apparently gave an injection of public-spiritedness to their conscience, and most doctors now do their full eight-hour shift at the public hospital. Example and proper action speak volumes more than words and it would be wise for other leaders also to come to the awareness that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We make a living from what we receive, but we make a life from what we give without expecting personal glory or anything in return.
We hope the Government even at this late stage will come to its senses by implementing the NMDP, a charter of patients’ rights and responsibilities and a national policy on health and nutrition, so that we will have more healthy people instead of just beautiful cities and roads with casinos for the book lickers and boot leggars.
Comments - 1
diviya Sunday, 23 June 2013 10:14 AM
Thank you..good Editorial for a change. educating people with the truth is a duty of media.
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