Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera, one of the
country’s most erudite Bhikkus, the other day made a very
pertinent observation with regard to our doctors.
Addressing a function to distribute funds for needy patients
to undergo surgery the scholar monk noted that there were a
large number of “waiting lists” today because some doctors do
not have hearts.
The Ven. Thera may have been making a commonly used phrase to
describe a callous attitude but his observation no doubt would
have had a ready resonance with a large mass of our citizens who
had to undergo ordeals at Government hospitals.
What the Ven. Thera implied was that doctors who are paid by
the State to give preference to ordinary patients are otherwise
engaged in private practise defeating the whole concept of the
country’s free health system.
Barring a few conscientious practitioners most Government
doctors today only make a casual examination of their patients
in order to rush for their private consultations. It is no
secret today that the lure of private practice has caused
standards in Government hospitals to suffer and by extension the
Some medicos have even been nabbed engaged in private
practice during official duty hours by the Health Ministry’s
Flying Squad. It is no secret that a majority of doctors mark
their presence at Government hospitals for appearance’s sake and
then rush for their lucrative channel practises.
The outcome of this is declining standards at State Hospitals
is the lengthening of the “Waiting List” for poor patients due
to undergo surgery and/or important tests.
The Government has begun a programme to upgrade all rural
hospitals. This programme must be expedited so that poor rural
patients do not have to trudge to the nearest big city or even
to Colombo for better medical facilities. These hospitals should
be provided with competent doctors and more advanced
It is also essential to regulate the mushrooming private
medical institutions, which usually charge exorbitant rates from
patients for even simple diagnostic procedures. The quality of
manpower, including nursing staff, at some of the private sector
hospitals and nursing homes also leaves a lot to be desired.
Inherent also in what the Ven. Thera said is that etiquette,
code of ethics and professional rectitude associated with the
medical profession is a thing of the past sacrificed on the
alter of mammon. Time was when the doctors were held in awe and
reverence as a life saving God among the common masses.
But today our medicos are being lumped with the profiteers
and swindlers associated with big business and enterprise and
have more or less lost their esteem in the public eye.
In this scenario it is worthwhile for the authorities to take
cognisance of the whole concept of the free health system and of
the huge health budget annually disbursed to upgrade the public
health sector and consider a through overhaul of the current
system so that the ordinary public will not be left in the lurch
through callous negligence.
We say this because the poor patient today has to cough up
exorbitant sums for their drugs while a debate rages on about
the efficacy of generic and branded drugs which has little
meaning to the general populace.
True, there are some patented brand name drugs and vaccines
which are not available in generic form, but many others are.
Moreover, some diseases require specialised treatment.
No doubt the nexus between the international drug companies,
the pharmacy mafia and the medical profession have combined to
conspire against the poor patients resulting in oppressive costs
of drugs and medicines.
To add to his woes most essential drugs are not available in
Government Hospitals resulting in the ordinary patients being
squeezed on all fronts.
The medical profession which was once hailed as something
sacrosanct is today increasingly functioning as just another
corporate entity where profit has become the chief motive force
putting paid to the ideals of this once noble profession.
Therefore the need of the hour is for a change of heart among
those who still who posses a heart so that true meaning is given
to the hippocratic oath and our medicos regain their lost
prestige and honour among society.
Sri Lanka does have impressive health indices some of which
are on par with those of the developed world. True dedication on
the part of health workers can take this achievement to an even