26 September, 2018

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Minister Of Health & The Sri Lankan Healthcare

By Bhagya Kodituwakku –

Being a Medical Doctor who was born and bred in Sri Lanka, I am truly disappointed of the news that our Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne flew to Singapore for a medical check up. According to recent reports, Dr. Senaratne visited Lanka Hospitals last week, where he found a minor ailment. Later in the same day, his family flew to Singapore to seek a second-opinion and further medical treatment from Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

This report is alarming on many levels, as it fundamentally questions the quality of the health care system of our nation, as well as the professional integrity of the Minister.

Rajitha

Photo – Rajitha at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore

The mission statement of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine clearly stipulates that its main objective is to improving health status and reducing inequalities. Further, at the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015, the Minister proudly boasted the country’s free health service since 1930s, adding that the health system has developed on a platform of efficient and effective primary healthcare, where equity is a central consideration.

We Sri Lankans must feel threatened or insecure, that the head of the healthcare services in our very own country feels the need to seek medical attention elsewhere even after receiving medical treatment from one of the top private hospitals in the country. This is nothing but an insult to the Sri Lankan doctors and the healthcare system. It is a known fact that his wife was the former Deputy Director of the National Hospital Colombo and currently the Director General of the National Non-Communicable Disease Bureau. Yet, local doctors are not good enough for further medical check-ups and second opinion. This demonstrates his lack of faith in the quality of medical standards in Sri Lanka, and undermines his professional ethics. This equivalent to Steve Jobs using a Nokia phone instead of an Apple iPhone, or the CEO of Toyota driving a Mercedes-Benz.

What this news also highlights is that after all, ‘healthcare equity’ is a mere façade. Of the 21 million Sri Lankans, how many would have the luxury to go abroad for further medical treatment? As an individual serving the interests of the nation and the common people, it is ironic that he is entitled to such level of luxury- and at who’s expense begs a separate question altogether.

There seems to be no question of ‘yahapalanaya’ (good governance) when it comes to this matter, where even the notorious Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) remains surprisingly quiet. While they are too busy defying against the private medical institution in Malabe, this issue does not seem to warrant any action from them either.

Is this the sort of message we want to give to our future doctors and also to the world? Leaders should lead by example, not merely by empty words. This is not to say that our healthcare system is without faults. Having said that, let us all stand up against this hypocrisy to restore the respect that our medical system and its highly qualified staff deserve.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    5

    Congratulations, Bhagya for waking up all the Sleeping Sri Lankans. including the members of the GMOA, who should all consider this Sri Lankan minister of Health going to another country for medical treatment an insult to all of them.The Cabinet should issue a Show Cause letter to the minister and hold a discip;inary inquiry against him.

  • 11
    0

    I see no contradiction in the minister seeking a second medical opinion in an advanced Hospital as long as it is PRIVATELY FUNDED!
    MAy be the funds he stole as KAPPAM when he was a minster in previous reigme.

  • 13
    2

    It is no secret that Sri Lankans who can afford overseas treatment do travel abroad. More often for surgical procedures. Why do Saudi King and other royalty of those oil rich countries travel to Mayo Clinic in the US for medical treatment while they have state of the art hospitals in their countries?
    Bhagya Kodituwakku should not be surprised. If she can afford health care at Mayo Clinic would she seek treatment from any of our gov. hospitals in SL?
    I have some advice to Bhagya too. Next time go on strike to get our hospitals updated so that ordinary citizens can have adequate treatment and medications, not for car permits for physicians.

  • 3
    2

    You are right.

    I have always felt that the sri lankan gods also wld have felt heavily insulted when MR went to indian temples – who knows that may have been the cause of his downfall!

    And what about the buddha’s feelings when the buddhists go to kataragama and other kovils – here again probably a clue to the country’s ills.

    This is a country full of insults – how about school teachers who are insulted everyday by students going for tuition? How much they ought to be hurting – tho of course their hurt is not that important as that of our dosthar mahattayas.

    What are we going to do?

    Anyway our priority right now is to wipe the tears of our doctors who have got massively insulted.

    But what happens to one of our doctors if you go to another sri lankan medico for a second opinion? Do they not cry on the shoulders of their wives? I am sure they do. I think we should make second opinions whether here or anywhere a criminal offence and protect the sensibilities of our tender medicos. The least we can do for them.

    • 0
      0

      This is the only sensible comment in this thread.

  • 8
    3

    how can he afford such a beautiful sarong?
    is it from Barefoot

    • 0
      2

      I asked the dath dosthara.

      No rubbish, boyo! It is a Finest Cotton Palayakat.

      Dosthara mahaththaya says he thinks he got it in Singapore from one of the boutiques on Campbell Avenue, or that nice place down Arab Street near the Sultan Mosque that sells the ‘best fine textiles’ .

      Open wide!

      • 1
        1

        naah
        I think he got it from Barefoot in Colpetty.
        That is why I think he is showing his barefoot in the photo.
        He must be on a commission with Barefoot to promote?

        Very Expensive I agree.
        Yesterday I went to Barefoot to buy one.
        They asked where I have seen it?
        I said I saw our Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne wearing it in a photo on the internet.
        The owner was very pleased and made a note of it.

    • 4
      1

      To : Rajash.

      He can wear a beautifull sarong and may have many beautifull sarongs because he has purchased those with your money and if this is a big joke to you then be prepared to be robbed and live in beggary all your life, unless you to are off the same calibre.

      ” GOD HELP SRI LANKA”

      • 0
        4

        I mean on the other hand look at it positively.
        This is good for the garment industry of Sri Lanka.
        Think about it

  • 6
    0

    Sri Lankan doctors need more empathy and communication skill towards the patients. Patients are persons and humans, members of the society. Respect for fellow humans is important on the basis of equality, privacy and dignity. Money mindedness and arrogance will not help. Tax free vehicle add to their status, does it to their service. The civilisation is evaluated on how a sick is treated by it.
    In the changing environment more attention needed on disease prevention and health education, hygiene , hand hygiene, injury and accident prevention.
    The oral health is very, very poor that is the dignity of the society on the first sight is. The appearance.

  • 1
    2

    “Manel Fonseka, They doctor the teeth. Teeth is part of the body. So, technically they qualify, except when a person with no teeth visits them, and they are disqualified. “
    Amarasiri, it shows your ignorance about dentistry. Ask a proper person the perspectives of Dentistry. Perhaps Sri Lankan dentistry is limited to teeth pulling only.

  • 3
    0

    Perspective

    hope and pray that the good minister will make a speedy recovery.
    If I was in his position I would have done the same thing. He loves his life as much as much as I love mine.

    The government is responsible to provide all her citizens free access to quality healthcare. By quality I mean availability of medicine,doctors and care country wide. In other words a hospital without beds is not poor quality because sleeping on the ground does not kill but absence of doctors , medicine and care will.

    Citizens are responsible to look after individual health by practicing healthy living habits (example : alcoholics, smokers have the personal right to smoke on their free will , but if those habits causes public-sector hospitalization then it is unfair for those who smoke and drink for they have to carry the burden of someone else’s carelessness).

    As an individual I would stop smoking , drinking alcohol , eating junk food , be physically active and cycle to work so that I would visit a hospital for natural causes, not due to self inflicted causes. Perhaps my discipline will spare a hospital bed for a person who deserves it more.

    Government is us , we are government . Together we achieve. United we stand , divided we fall.

  • 2
    1

    Rajitha took the right decision in going to Singapore to get the appropriate medical treatment. Going to Singapore is not an issue. In the past many prominent people like Fonsekas, Rajapakses, LTTE senionr cardres and many others from Sri Lanka has gone there for medical treatments. These were in the media.

    How Rajitha pays the bills is another matter. I am sure President Srisena will make it transparent in due course. Also joint opposition can bring this issue and get written answers.
    Also there are people loyal to MaRa & GoRa who are in the ministry & tax department and similar govt departments will be watching and do “wikileaks” to bring back MaRa /GoRa regime.

    Truth and law & order were seldom in practice during MaRa regime.Hope truth and law & order prevails under the new government.

    Let’s pray for Rajitha for speedy recovery from the succesful surgery and for better health as SL needs his services at this juncture.

    • 8
      3

      These are the buggers who ask the common man to eat haalmesso and parippu and succumb to any illness because of the lack of proper medical care and benefits, while they and their henchmen rob the country from north to south, east to west.
      They are frightened of death and will do any immoral thing to prolong their lives to the max so that they can rob more and more.
      The so called tooth doctor must be a thick headed buffoon if not he would have taken a lesson from “Alexander the Great” and all his riches.
      Anyway let him live a bit longer for he has a lot to answer after death.

      • 5
        2

        Well said !!!!!!!
        This is the ugliness of Sri Lankan politics and the general public have to answer for bringing rogues of this mentality to power. If the public can’t see themselves being ripped off by these pariahs then let them live in the squalor of poverty while cheating and looting continues under their noses.

        Anyway ! let the healthy man enjoy himself to the max because he will have many questions and answers to be given after death.

        Sri lankans should change their national anthem to ” God save sri lanka”.

  • 6
    2

    I feel that the ministers of health in Sri Lanka should be compelled to endure conditions in Sri Lankan public hospitals to gain first-hand knowledge of the suffering that ordinary citizens undergo when they’re admitted to hospital.

    Since these ministers use public funds to get first class medical attention overseas while many of the people who pay for their ministers’ trips through consumption taxes (ie their food, commodities and consumables are all taxed) sleep on a mat under a hospital bed with the stench of others’ faeces, urine and vomit stifling them.

    If ministers are not compelled to endure this suffering, they will always treat public health with contempt and not care about improving the system.

    On the other hand, if other countries in South and South East Asia can have state of the art public hospitals, what is stopping Sri Lanka?

    What is stopping Sri Lanka is the parasitic political class that decade after decade take the voting citizens for a ride at their expense, and allowing the public to suffer, with no compassion towards their pathetic circumstances..!

    See my personal experience of a hospitalisation in Sri Lanka in July 2015 here:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/horrors-of-ward-30-at-teaching-hospital-kandy/

  • 1
    1

    When I first read the reports of RS’s health condition, my first thought was…is this another gimmick?

    I have endured two heart attacks and have had angio-plasty done after the second episode.

    One does not walk in and then walk-out from such events, if they are genuine medical incidents. Your doctors have to be idiots to let you do that. The first thing they do is test you if there is an event happening or has happened. The results are conclusive. Then, they treat you appropriately after doing an angiogram. There is no shortcut to this process. Whether one has more serious open-heart surgery or a by-pass is dictated to, by the outcome of the angiogram.

    My suspicions lean more towards the Bribery Commission’s investigations and Rajitha’s non cooperation with its inquiries.

    If he is genuinely ill, he must get the best treatment possible. Hopefully he is not morally challenged and will not splurge the government’s meagre resources on a Singapore Safari for himself and his family. All the required facilities are available in Sri Lanka and if the government is paying the bills, he should be forced to use the same hospitals as we are.

    If he wants to use his own money…go for it Rajitha. Just let us know when and how you earned it.

  • 1
    1

    It is ok if the Minister foot his medical bill from his own funds. But if he was advised by PM and President to seek treatment in Singapore, then obviously the money is going from the Government coffers. Apart from the mind set of inferiority our politicians have on the local health care system, this begets the question of how our governments are run.
    Whether it is SLFP or UNP or a national yahapalana government, our poor citizens get one kind of service and the politicians who preach equality and accessibility get ‘royal’ services either locally or internationally. The tax payer pays for their high life style. Minister Rajitha who speaks eloquently (unashamedly) about other peoples’ corruption should not fleece the government for this personal expenses.

  • 1
    1

    If the members of the GMOA are providing such an excellent health service and we do not need any outside help, why does the Minister have to fly off to Singapore? If on the other hand will the GMOA agree to allow Doctors from Singapore to come and work here so that we can all benefit from their services.

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