Authorities in Sri Lanka are very concerned and quick to respond when
the prices of essential food items and services like transport tend to
go up consequent on upward movement of fuel prices. The prices of those
items and their transport costs have a direct bearing on the rising Cost
of Living which should be mitigated as far as possible to protect the
There are certain regulatory mechanisms in this regard in the form of
the Consumer Protection Authority and the Transport Commission.
But there is another sector providing an equally essential service to
the public in the preservation of health and enjoying the freedom to
raise their charges every now and then without being subject to any
I am not referring here to those star class private hospitals which
cater exclusively to the affluent class for whom the price is not a
matter of concern, but to those private channelling centres and
diagnostic laboratories catering mainly to the lower middle classes like
pensioners and self-employed or those with modest means of income, not
fortunate to be covered by any medical insurance schemes.
Of late we have seen a sharp increase in the fees charged by these
institutions for various services rendered by them. In Matara town,
these charges have gone up phenomenally.
For instance, the consultancy fees which were around Rs. 350 abut
four months back are today Rs. 430/490 and ordinary blood tests from Rs.
130 to Rs. 240 and so on.
The effect of those factors contributing to the rising Cost of Living
must be marginal, if at all, on these institutions and they have no
valid reasons to raise their charges so steeply.
Surely a medical consultant who gives 50-60 consultations a day, has
no reasons to worry about CoL or the price of fuel for his vehicle
provided duty free by the Government. Private health services have
become a lucrative business today and most people patronise these
institutions because a consultation at a Government clinic is almost
next to an impossibility owing to the large number of patients seeking
consultations at them.
Private consultation clinics/channelling centres have thus come to
stay and it should be granted that they are a great convenience to the
public. The Government must now take steps to regulate this sector and
ensure that the public who call over at them are not fleeced by those
who are running them.
They should be brought under the supervision of some authority
curtailing their freedom at raising or revising the charges arbitrarily.
Necessary provisions could be included in the proposed Medical
Services Regulatory Commission Act.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by Sam de Silva (DN Aug 06).
However the foreign currency the migrant workers' generate is too much
Recently Malaysia introduced restrictions and I have no doubt the
volume of Malaysian migrant workers to the Middle East decreased, but it
is not right that we take up the slack.
Instead, we should emulate Malaysia, or better still, co-operate with
the other countries that send these workers and formulate a workable and
honourable charter for migrant domestic workers that the Middle Eastern
and other employers, left with little alternatives, will accept.