Clear medical interns' problem
The indications are that, very soon, Sri
Lanka may be saddled with a problem of unemployed medical graduates,
unless present obstacles to the making of internship appointments for
these graduates in the State health sector are quickly overcome. As
disclosed by the Medical Faculty Students'
Union and the Government Medical Officers' Association, some 1,600
medical graduates are currently idling until they receive internship
appointments in Government hospitals, which is an essential condition
for their absorption as doctors in the State health sector.
While, apparently, a legal suit continues to pend before the Supreme
Court on post-internship appointments, these medical graduates are being
compelled to languish in a state of unemployment. Consequently, many of
them - the cream of the medical graduates we are told - are leaving the
country for greener pastures abroad. Britain in particular, is enabling
these graduates to complete their internships in its State hospitals
with a view to "filling the vacuums" in its health system. Our lead
story last Friday, would have provided the reader with an in-depth view
of these issues.
All that we have got to say is that this crisis cannot be allowed to
get out of hand. At present medical undergraduates are being enrolled at
six month intervals at local medical faculties, instead of the usual one
year time span in enrolment, to clear the backlog in the absorbtion of
medical undergraduates to these faculties, but all these efforts would
prove futile if the log-jam in providing internships is not resolved. As
mentioned earlier, we would be up against a burgeoning problem of
unemployed medical graduates. No one would be in a position to criticize
them if they seek a better deal for themselves abroad, if their
employment needs are not fulfilled in Sri Lanka. Therefore, a
brain-drain situation in respect of medical graduates could be said to
be on the cards.
The poor of Sri Lanka in particular, wouldn't want the State health
system to suffer any dislocations. For them, the welfare system - in
which free health services figure prominently - is a cherished boon.
Accordingly, we need to ensure that the State health system doesn't
suffer from any serious deficiencies. It would be in order, therefore,
to enable medical interns to be at their posts as quickly as possible
because the so-called common people depend on the public sector health
system so much. If Law's Delays are getting in the way of absorbing
medical interns, these have to be eliminated without any further
The State and the public also need to remember that the brain-drain
has cost us very dearly in the past. Over the years we have lost the
cream of our intelligentsia and expertise to foreign lands, on account
of our "best brains" seeking better job prospects abroad. We cannot
prolong this process of impoverishment. We must ensure that our experts
and "best brains" remain with us.
A bumper harvest
Last week we published the good news
that the country is in for the biggest ever bumper Maha season with
nearly two million metric tons of paddy ready for harvesting.
This has not apparently been unusual in the ancient days for a
country famed as the Granary of the East, but paddy production had
declined over the years due to various factors, to the point where we
mostly had to depend on imports.
Pragmatic policies followed by the Government, along with the
determination and hard work of farmers, have paid off: We will have more
than enough rice for consumption this year. The re-cultivation of
abandoned paddy lands, the continuation of the fertiliser subsidy, the
supply of agricultural implements at reasonable prices, a guaranteed
price for paddy and efforts to increase the number of bushels per acre
are being cited as the main reasons for this performance.
It is heartening to note that the Government is actively involved in
paddy purchasing. This will not only provide a guaranteed price for the
farmer by cutting out the middlemen but also enable the consumer to buy
rice at more affordable prices. Moreover, the stoppage of rice imports
would save a considerable amount of foreign exchange, which can be
utilised for tsunami relief and reconstruction work.
The question of "handling" the bumper harvest will also arise. On a
previous bumper harvest, full-colour newspaper advertisements urged the
people to eat more rice. The millions of rupees spent on this exercise
could have been spent on farmer welfare. Instead of advertising per se,
most media outlets will be more than happy to carry out awareness
campaigns that highlight the importance of consuming more rice, to boost
both individual health and the national economy. Bread prices have gone
up after the abolition of the flour subsidy provided to a multinational
company, so rice is well set to project itself as a viable, cheaper
alternative even to the stressed-out cityfolk.
We must also explore the possibility of exporting any excess stocks
and saving another quantity as buffer stocks. The infusion of more
advanced techniques and better irrigation systems for paddy production
will lead to bigger harvests in the future. The rapid development of the
agriculture sector, including paddy cultivation, will be a major boost
to the economy in the long term.