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Editorial - Drugs policy

31 May 2012 06:30 pm - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Amid a continuing shortage of essential drugs in public hospitals and clinics, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday directed hospital committees to act fast and effectively to find a solution to this major problem.  Even if they do so, the committees will only be tackling the symptoms because of the long-drawn and mysterious delay in introducing legislation to implement the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) to provide quality drugs to all people at affordable prices.

The implementation of the NMDP was one of the promises in the Mahinda Chintanaya for the 2005 presidential election. The present minister for the past two years has told the people and even the Supreme Court that the legislation will come soon but that soon has not yet come.

Meanwhile the drug shortage and the lack of facilities for laboratory tests have seriously affected treatment standards in public hospitals while most private hospitals have raised their charges for warded patients to the levels of five-star hotels and they are beyond the reach of 90 per cent of our people. Even the outpatient charges in private hospitals are soaring out of control with one well-known specialist reported to be charging as much as Rs.4,000 for a consultation that lasts only a few minutes. Some years ago a law was passed to monitor and regulate the treatment and charges at private hospitals but it is to a large extent a dead letter and what goes on tantamounts to plunder or pick pocketing of helpless patients.

For the past two months the Health Minister has been silent about the NMDP and the people are wondering whether powerful vested interests have forced him to shelve the NMDP just as they did with the former Health Minister. Ministers such as Wimal Weerawansa regularly talk of the danger of allowing foreign countries to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and describe it as a violation of our sovereignty. But they do not say much when rich and powerful transnational drug companies virtually control the vital life-or-death health service of our country. Two weeks ago Senior Minister Tissa Vitharane who heads the parliamentary committee on health and is known to be committed to Professor Senaka Bibile’s essential medicines concept blamed the Legal Draftsman's Department for delaying the legislation on the NMDP. If that is so the department is guilty of a serious offence because this legislation involves the lives of people and stern action has to be taken.

  Comments - 2

  • Justin Friday, 01 June 2012 10:42 AM

    Violating the rule of law, the government decisions are not kept impersonal but are based on ethnicity. Lack of legal restraint on Tamils is the reason for gross violation of Human rights and military repression leading to genocide.

    Also, there is no guarantee of individual freedoms for the people of NE of the island, and the due process of law is postponed indefinitely for those in custody.

    Sarath De Silva, the former Chief Justice of SL, made this observation lamentfully, when he visited the IDP camps in 1979.

    This week, the US has asked for justice and speedy trial for LTTE suspects, but was rebuked by a cabinet minister of the GOSL.

    To correct the fundamental error, the US may have to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to adjudicate on the validity of the first republic “constitution” of SL of 1972.

    Justin Friday, 01 June 2012 10:45 AM

    The “law of those who rule” is applied more than the “rule of law” to the people in the North and East(NE) of Sri Lanka(SL).

    The rule of law anywhere, is the legal dimension of the democratic process, which seeks to ensure that government decisions are impersonal and subject to legal restraint. It also guarantees individual freedoms from arbitrary government, and entitles the individual to due process of law.

    The constitution of any country is the foundation for its rule of law.

    But the document called the “constitution” of SL, prepared first in 1972, did not coform to the definition of a democratic constitution in its formation. It was simply a docment for the Sinhalese to administer the island, which SL wrongly called as its “constitution”.

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