Patientsí rights must be primary
The decision by the health authorities to control the
prices of medicinal drugs from the beginning of next year is a
highly principled one in consideration of the primacy that must
be attached to the well being of the people by the state.
Pharmaceutical drugs importers and manufactures may have some
points worth pondering on in connection with this issue but the
government cannot veer from the view that the public interest
must be uppermost on its mind.
Healthcare is a principal right of the people. Today, a
robust public discourse on the rights of patients is on and this
is based on the indisputable premise that the state in countries
such as ours, should consider the perpetuation of the physical
and mental health of the people as a fundamental duty. Since a
great many medicinal drugs are beyond the people's
affordability, the government, in a welfare-oriented state, is
obliged to step in and control, at least to a degree, the prices
of essential drugs.
At the heart of the state and public's concern over the
prices of medicines is an ideological underpinning. Healthcare
in countries such as ours has always been considered as almost a
fundamental right of the people. This is the reason why it has
been provided free by the state from the time of Independence.
Thanks to the state-maintained healthcare system, the primary
health needs of the people have been looked after a great deal
and this has contributed towards the progressive development of
our human resources.
If Sri Lanka is ranking high internationally from the point
of view of the quality of life of the people, it is primarily
because sectors, such as, the public healthcare system, have
been generally operating without a hitch. However, although the
public healthcare system has been in operation in its essentials
over the decades, the current emergence of movements to protect
the rights of patients indicates that despite such
state-initiated healthcare measures, not all sections of the
public have been in a position to secure the required assistance
and medical wherewithal that ensure wholesomeness.
Apparently, the public healthcare system has not always been
in a position to secure for the people, purse easy medicinal
drugs and other requirements although the poorest of the poor
have always been cared for by the state. It is with a view to
catering more fully to the essential health needs of the people
that price control of medicines is being envisioned by the
Market forces cannot be expected to deliver the most
essential medicinal drugs at affordable prices to the totality
of the public and this is why the state has been compelled to
actively consider adopting as a model the Prof. Senaka Bibile
proposals relating to the healthcare needs of the people.
There are no trouble-free ways of launching progressive
measures of this kind. Reaction to the intended scheme is sure
to be there and the government would need to carefully look at
all the pros and cons of this initiative, together with
considering the opinions of medicinal drugs importers and
manufacturers, before forging ahead with their proposals for
making healthcare affordable.
However, there is no denying that intervention by the state
is necessary to protect the interests of the public and price
control should not be frowned upon and misconstrued as a
retrogressive move by those other stakeholders in the healthcare
scene. For the majority of the people, state-assisted healthcare
is a must and the government is obliged to accord to the public
well being primary importance.
The hands of the state must be strengthened by the
well-meaning in its efforts to fend for the people. These are
matters the Opposition too must deeply ponder. Raucous protests
on highways are not likely to be of much avail. Past UNP-led
governments did much to undermine the welfare state system and
the Opposition should pause to consider their contribution
towards weakening the support systems of the people. Rather than
mindlessly protest in the manner of rebels without a cause, they
need to consider how best they could contribute towards the
current discourse on protecting and enhancing the public's
health and other needs.