|Wednesday, 21 April 2004|
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Although there had been a long-standing debate on this subject not a single health minister had the backbone to do it. There is no reason why it cannot be done, lest there is pressure or oiling by the drug companies - suppliers and manufacturers.
Why the medical practitioners, especially the consultants in government service show a deaf and dumb attitude towards this issue is no secret. Almost all the drug companies are looking after the key consultants in government service to ensure to shelve it. There are some consultants who prescribe only one particular brand irrespective of its quality and the cost.
Drug companies go to the extent of fully maintaining the vehicles of key consultants throughout, including even replacement of tyres when necessary. All-on-board overseas holidays are arranged to their families. Passage, board and lodging are provided to attend overseas seminars. When they want to introduce a new brand name, seminars are arranged in star hotels and the important medical personnel and their families are provided with fully paid accommodation as long as they wish.
Today's lot of medical practitioners have made this profession a lucrative business. These medical Mudalalis are exploiting the poor, innocent sick at every turn possible to make themselves rich, at times even stooping to the low level of taking poor patients as hostages to further fatten their fat purses.
Most of them in government service have forgotten that they are hired servants of the public. They are on the mean obsession that the health service is there mainly to enhance their service conditions and serving the public is secondary. Public has the right to get a decent service from the servants paid by the tax payers.
Government can do this overnight, but no government has done this. Why? Lot of people may not be aware that the majority of the officials at higher levels who are expected to make these decisions are themselves medical personnel. Of course they themselves are well oiled by the drug barons.
As long as the medical officers occupy these key positions it will never happen. They will never ever push it through. They will continue to make the poor man suffer and pay to keep the multi-millionaire drug barons happy who in turn bribe these officials indirectly.
No laborious procedures are required to implement this. It can be done overnight by a simple gazette notification, to the effect that any medical officer who prescribes a branded drug without the generic term is liable for prosecution. Generic term can be written within brackets against the brand name.
Deadline for its implementation can be announced through the news media. After the implementation, educate and encourage the public to send photocopies of prescriptions without generic terms to the relevant authority for necessary action. Patients names can be withheld if necessary.
I wish to draw the special attention of the JVP members of the new
Alliance government to take necessary steps to implement this immediately
in order to prevent further exploitation of the poor patients by our
corrupt medical practice.
The downward trend of the internal politics of this country over the last few decades and its adverse repercussions, have to be arrested in view of the urgent necessity for the establishment of a stable peace and the advancement of society towards sound moral standards and economic prosperity.
This aim could be achieved to a considerable extent if the independent and intelligent civil groups or movements would monitor the activities of the Ministers and other MPs in both the Government and Opposition in the Parliament. Let us once and for all exorcise the political devilry that envelops our country.
Participation in politics by the people should be continuous and not generally confined to voting at elections. All sections of the people have to exercise vigilance and offer constructive criticism on the various issues involved.
The people should not be allowed to be led by the nose by selfish politicians. It has to be ensured that the politicians in our assemblies have to regard themselves as people's trustees, that they are responsible to transcend narrow ethnic, religious, caste and sexual discriminatory barriers, and that they would not fail to act accordingly. Their behaviour and conduct in and out of Parliament should be left exposed to the public as sovereignty lies in the people.
Accordingly, the inalienable right of the public to see and hear the proceedings in the House of Parliament via the electronic media network of the country, cannot be denied. The fact of such exposure will become an automatic device for prevention of various malfunctions which occurred in the past.
It is therefore submitted for urgent consideration of the authorities
concerned that with the commencement of the new Parliament all proceedings
of the House should be transmitted to the people by means of the TV and
The General Elections result of April 2, 2004 may have surprised some of the observers, but the unavoidable fact is that the Elected Representatives of the voters are now supposed to deliver the goods in a responsible manner rather than be posturing on their own behalf. Otherwise it would be a repeat performance of the same old "concert" replete with a comic turn as well.
The actual material? losers over the past five decades have been the Aid Donors (numbering several) whose disposition has been abused, going by the admitted fact that up to 30 per cent of funds is unaccountable even in recent times!
Therefore, if the Parliament cannot come up with positive and professionally-based answers very fast, it is best for the citizens of Lanka that the Donor consortium function in advisory or supervisory capacities in Finance and Planning henceforth. In fact, the World Bank is already at the Central Bank overlooking an overhaul of the creaky banking system which is causing shivers!
(This is the reason for the reduction of the Bank rate).
If there is no Realism and Responsibility about the present and future
in terms of past performance, what is the use of these General Elections?
Alternatively, are we to have a General Election annually?
At present letters are being sent to selected tax payers requesting for explanations pertaining to the credits in their Bank Statements, enabling the Dept. of Inland Revenue to scrutinize the income particulars submitted by the said tax payers for the year 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 as well.
I do appreciate that corrective action has to be taken by the Dept. of Inland Revenue. However, the following facts have to be considered:
(1) Tax Amnesty
Several tax payers have applied for tax amnesty within the specified period and their letters have been acknowledged by the Dept. of Inland Revenue. Such persons should not be questioned up to the year of assessment 2001/2002. Of course, I agree there is a controversy pertaining to this Bill and the Supreme Court states that it is not within the Constitution.
It is the duty of the Government to clarify the position to the public as to whether the concession granted by the said Amnesty Bill will be withdrawn or not.
(2) It has been continuously suggested that the tax payers should be requested to declare their wealth as at March 31 of every year when submitting their Annual Return to the Dept. of Inland Revenue. This step will assist the tax payers in preparing a cash flow for any specified period of time when requested by the Department.
(3) Requesting for particulars of income from the bank statements after
a lapse of time creates lots of problems and results in mental agony to
the tax payer. It is the duty of the Dept. of Inland Revenue to ensure
that taxes are collected without giving much problem to the tax payers or
otherwise tax evasion etc. would become inevitable.
I had an incredibly shocking experience at the Fort branch of Osu Sala on March 10 when I went there to buy some drugs for my daughter prescribed by a consultant dermatologist for her skin ailment.
Out of the three drugs prescribed, one was, "Methoxsalen" but the drug dispensed by Osu Sala was, "Methotrexate".
As I observed that the drug dispensed had a different name, I was compelled to recheck with the consultant dermatologist who prescribed this medicine. He was extremely shocked to note that a drug meant for treatment of cancer patients had been dispensed for treatment of a skin ailment.
If my daughter had taken this drug without referring to the doctor, she would have developed a chronic kidney failure, which would eventually necessitate a kidney transplant.
I brought this serious lapse to the notice of the Managing Director of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation who simply camouflaged and said that both drugs were similar to each other and the sales assistant at the counter had made a mistake.
I impressed upon the Managing Director - SPC that Osu Sala being the sales outlet of the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation dispensing drugs for treatment of human beings should have been extremely careful as a mistake in the drugs dispensed by them could decide between life and death.
I leave it to the public to guess how many innocent patients would have got their health impaired or even lost their lives without knowing the real cause due to the negligence of Osu Sala.
I believe that the appropriate Health Authorities would take suitable
remedial action with a view to preventing recurrence of any such lapses on
the part of the dispensing para-medical staff at Osu Sala.
The opinion expressed recently by our Supreme Court on the Tax Amnesty Act passed by the last Government can be considered a landmark one. I give my reasons for stating so.
(1) The present Constitution states in terms of Article 81 (3) that once the Speaker gives his sanction to any bill passed by the Parliament the bill becomes law and that no Court or Tribunal can pronounce any Judgement on the Speaker's decision. From the above opinion given by the Supreme Court on the Tax Amnesty Law, it is now clear that this Court is not precluded from passing any opinion on any law passed by the Parliament.
(2) Issue now is whether the Government is bound to follow any opinion given by the Supreme Court. The Constitution is silent over this matter. But any opinion passed by the highest Court of the country cannot be pooh-poohed as bunkum.
It has definitely a persuasive value. Thus the government will have to respect such opinion and will have to act according to the wishes of the Supreme Court. Of course it depends on the attitude of a Government towards any opinion expressed by the Court.
(3) The view held in legal circles is that our courts cannot strike down any legislation enacted by the Government. Will our legal luminaries have second thoughts on this matter after this decision of the Supreme Court?
(4) Will this decision affect the supremacy of our Parliament? If any Government in keeping with such opinion given by the Supreme Court throws away any law into the limbo of forgotten things, then can we call our Parliament supreme?
(5) By such opinion passed by the Supreme Court, it can divert the Government in its economic policies. We have already seen this in Bulankulame FR Case (Eppawala Case).
I think seeking such opinion by the President as allowed by the
Constitution will have salutary results.
You notice a red rash around your ankles and dab a bit of skin ointment over it. It disappears! Your delight is short lived, as it reappears and thereafter all home remedies fail. So you go to a skin specialist- why waste time on general practitioners? The rash reacts angrily to the skin specialist treatment, developing lesions, holes and whatever makes it unbearable to look at.
You persist on your skin specialist rounds and practically exhaust the available lot, inside hospitals and out. You dump all the medication into a drawer, enough to start a mini-pharmacy, including all the antibiotics you could not take except for 2 to 3 pills, being wildly allergic.
The rash goes, as if in disdain, and then comes back with a vengeance. Your friends say, "Aha! vicious thoughts in the subconscious breaking out!" You have now descended to picking your ointment for the day, as none of them work anyway. When you open the drawer, the homoeopathy cream goes crashing to the floor and the ayurvedic "patthu" gets stuck in the hinges.
One morning, after about 2 1/2 years, it dawns on you that "this is not skin", and you scurry round the corner to the family doctor, who has been there all the time. He takes one look and says, "varicose veins!". He tells you which doctor to consult. You are sent for a scan, which proves his diagnosis is correct.
Do not remain glued to the organ that seems faulty. It could be just a pointer that the body is frantically employing to show that its underlying tissues or neighbouring organs, too deep to expose themselves, are, in the words of the scan, becoming "incompetent".
No specialist treatment should ever deter you from dropping in on
general practitioner for his own valuable opinion.
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