While the Ministry of Health is embroiled in many controversies and receiving ‘bad press’, Sujatha Senaratne, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne‘s wife cum Private Secretary, has invited journalists for a special medical camp followed by breakfast.
The three-day health camp starting from November 05 will take place at Sri Lanka Foundation and the ministry requests all journalists to make use of this “excellent opportunity” and undergo a thorough medical check-up free of charge.
However, questions have arisen if the health camp is a veiled attempt at bribing journalists to cover-up negative stories about the Ministry of Health and to promote Minister Rajitha Senaratne’s political career.
It is also not clear as to how they selected journalists as an eligible group for a free medical camp while there are many other, less-privileged professional and social groups in the country. The decision to handpick journalists as a professional group brings the bona fides of the camp into question.
It is also important to question as to why the Health Minister’s wife and Private Secretary, Sujatha Senaratne, signed the letter while there are many other senior officials who can undertake the task on behalf of the ministry. The letter has also been sent on a letterhead of Rajitha Senaratne, directly associating the Minister with the initiative.
Many concerns have also been raised about the nature of the health camp. “This kind of sub standard medical screening carried out in a non-medical setting can only be in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in an exceptional situation such as refugee camps etc. Screening for diseases should be carried out with back up medical facilities of a hospital or a well equipped health facility,” an informed source familiar with the matter told Colombo Telegraph.
“For instance, if a journalist collapsed during an invasive procedure (phlebotomy/ dental procedure/ exercise) is there a facility at the SLF to resuscitate him/her? What is the urgent need to take journalists to a high-risk non medical setting for health procedures?” he asked.
Another alarming outcome of the initiative would be the cabinet spokesperson’s ability to gather personal and sensitive information about the journalists who will be questioning him in the future, an informed ministry source added.
“He will have access to all their vulnerable disease conditions and he can manipulate this information for blackmailing, exerting pressure, bribing, offering health benefits that one can’t refuse,” she also explained.
Further to that there is inaccurate instruction: fasting times and method is wrong. The leaflet says to fast from 10 pm the previous day because the organizers plan to draw the blood at about 8.00 AM at the completion of 10 hours. It may even be at 12 in the afternoon that the 10-12 hours fasting usually 10 hours of fasting is recommended for the blood to be drawn. This is a medically erroneous way. When you take blood as late as 10 AM to 12 afternoon the following day atl east 6 hours of energy expenditure is down, giving lower results for blood glucose and lipid profile.
Also there is no indication to refrain from taking water if you are fasting for glucose or lipid profile. It is old knowledge. This goes to show the medical knowledge of Sujatha Senaratne, private secretary to the Health Minister and his wife.
If you examine the guidelines of any accredited laboratory you can find out the correct method of fasting for Non communicable Disease screening. This is a violation of the basic standards of carrying out a mass screening.
This comes against a backdrop of the Health Minister Senaratne running into a crisis over his attempt to remove three specialist doctors from the board of the Jayawardenepura General Hospital. Hospital’s management board Chairman Athula Kahandaliyanage attempted to appoint three stooges of the minister to the board, removing the specialist doctors.