In the early morning of December 27, the authorities addressed a large crowd of people protesting outside Badureliya District Hospital. They had come to support a Member of Parliament who was staging a hunger strike demanding the reopening of the hospital. The authorities announced to the crowd that the hospital would be reopened the next morning.
The hospital was closed down after the death of a local man. The man was taken to the hospital in critical condition and, according to his family and their neighbours, did not receive immediate medical attention. He died before any treatment was provided. The incident took place on December 17 2013. When the news of his death spread to the surrounding villages his neighbours gathered and protested peacefully. The hospital was closed down when the doctors went on strike in retaliation to the protest.
According to the son of the deceased, Mr. P.K. Caushaliya, he, along with some friends, took his father to the hospital at midnight on the 16th as his condition was serious. He took his father to the admissions desk. However, there was no one there to receive patients. He cried out to attract attention but only an orderly arrived. It was 40 minutes later that a doctor by the name of D.M.O. Nandakumara arrived. As the deceased had difficulty in breathing his son asked the doctor whether there was no one there to give emergency care. Dr. Nandakumara did not provide any emergency treatment but only instructed that the patient be admitted to the hospital.
Meanwhile, a Grama Sevaka and a policeman arrived. They seem to have been called by the doctor. These two officers started assaulting Caushaliya in front of his ailing father. The friends who had accompanied them intervened in an attempt to stop the commotion. However, the two officers forced Caushaliya and his friends into a police jeep and took them to the station. One of the officers, a man named Suriyaarachchi, said loudly, “These two fellows should be taken to the station and beaten, and thereafter be remanded for 14 days”. Caushaliya’s request to be at the hospital in order to assist his father was ignored.
Meanwhile, the father was transferred to Nagoda Hospital and there the doctors informed his relatives that it might be possible to save his life. Later the patient was declared dead. When the news of his death reached Badureliya, the villagers gathered to protest. They did not cause any damage to any persons or property.
The following day, December 17, the doctors did not report to work at Badureliya District Hospital in retaliation to the protest. Later, the nurses also joined in to support the doctors. The work of the hospital came to a standstill and there were no doctors or nurses to attend to the patients. This situation continued until midnight yesterday.
On December 25, a local Member of Parliament, Palitha Theverupperuma, started a hunger strike demanding the immediate reopening of the hospital. Crowds began to gather in support of the MP’s hunger strike. Meanwhile, some unknown persons attacked the MP’s vehicle, causing serious damage.
By the evening of December 26, larger crowds had gathered and, according to reports, there were approximately 3,000 people at the protest. It was at this stage that the authorities announced that the hospital would be reopened on December 27, today.
Many villagers expressed discontent with the way this hospital is being administered. They narrated many incidents to illustrate the negligence on the part of the doctors and the other staff of the hospital. In one case, a man who was brought to the hospital in a diabetic coma. The same doctor involved in the present case declared that man to be dead. The family took the man to another hospital where he was administered an injection, after which he regained consciousness.
That a hospital could be closed for over a week due to a protest following the death of one of the fellow villagers is an indication of the negligence on the part of the Health Ministry in administration. The government needs to launch an inquiry into this whole incident and take remedial action to avoid a recurrence.
*Statement by Asian Human Rights Commission