The national or consensus Government has pledged that after May Day and its roaring rallies, priority would be given to the implementation of promises or policies relating to vital areas. On Monday the Daily Mirror in its Editorial spotlighted the Government’s plan to make it compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16 to go to school and receive a life-building education. Parents who fail to ensure this will be guilty of an offence.
Today we wish to spotlight another vital area-health care for all and measures to bring about an awareness that healing is not a business but a vocation and the patient is sacred. An important paradigm shift needs to come through a national health policy where all forms of healing - allopathy, various forms of ayurveda, homoeopathy, acupuncture and other forms of healing - are given an equal place.
At present far too much emphasis is given, especially in city and sub-urban areas, to allopathy or western medicine. That may be one of the reasons why the private health sector has become one of the biggest profitable businesses with a growing number of private hospitals, medical specialists, trans-national pharmaceutical companies and others making millions of rupees at the expense of the unsuspecting and helpless patients.
Last year, after a decade of delays and allegedly corrupt practices mainly by drug companies, Parliament unanimously approved legislation for the implementation of Prof. Senaka Bibile’s national medicinal drugs policy. In terms of this, a high-powered National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) was appointed mainly to ensure that the people have access to quality drugs at affordable prices. Financial resources for the high-powered NMRA were approved only in November last year. Its Chairman Prof. Laal Jayakody, Chief Executive Officer Prof. Krishantha Weerasuriya and others are working in a spirit of sincerity and sacrifice to restore a health service where the well-being of patients is given top priority. Health Ministry officials have still not gazetted regulations to monitor and control the prices of drugs. We hope this would be done soon so that the complex process of testing the quality, efficacy and the safety of drugs could be streamlined with full use being made of the latest methods of medical technology - a facility that Prof. Bibile did not have in the 1970s.
While the NMRA is given facilities and encouragement to achieve its objectives, the Government needs to take practical steps to revive other forms of healing and give the people an awareness of the options and health benefits available to them.
For thousands of years Sri Lanka has experienced the great healing power of ayurveda. The Lord Buddha himself has referred to the healing power in thousands of varieties of herbs and plants. For instance the good old Kothamalli is still widely used by millions of people for relief from fever, colds and other ailments.
If the marvels of modern technology are used for research on the healing value of plants and fruits, we could make great discoveries and strides. Many herbal medicine analysts believe there could be healing power for instance in the mangosteen or rambutan skins which we now just throw away. The setting up of an ayurveda medical research institute with digital technology facilities could be one step to make creative and innovative medicinal items from the resources we have.
Homoeopathy also has much potential with homoeopaths sharing information online and making new discoveries. For years homoeopathy experts have said they have an effective cure for dengue, but the Government health authorities have not shown even a small dose of the interest they have in the preventive vaccine manufactured by a foreign company. Acupuncture, with a history of thousands of years, also could be upgraded through modern medical technology and used for the benefit of millions of people.
With most Sri Lankans having access to the internet and search engines, even lay people could do research studies on the latest trends and new discoveries just as a Sri Lankan ENT specialist did some research online and found a manioc cure for cancer.