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Make them answerable

by Gayan Abeykoon
September 18, 2023 1:30 am 0 comment

By now the entire country is tired of talking about our health sector. But still we have to talk about it because people lose their body organs due to the wickedness of some members of the health staff. Some of them were called ‘nightingales’ in the past. Now we have crows instead of nightingales ! We are talking about some nurses, some attendants etc in the health sector.

Sri Lankan media is extremely fond of digging dirt on politicians, corruption, faults of any Government which ruled the country by that time etc. But Sri Lankan media do not talk about the corruption and malpractices of public servants who serve in lower grades in any sector. It is the very same with the health sector. They are the people who drag the quality of all services down no matter whether drugs are available or not or whether medical equipment is available or not.

Maybe Sri Lanka does not have the best quality drugs in the world and maybe there are shortages in certain drugs and other medical equipment etc. Maybe there are shortcomings in providing maintenance services or medical equipment etc. Maybe there are no adequate number of Consultants. Those issues have not occurred recently or a couple of years ago. Those issues were there for the past 75 years but there was no one to use those issues for their own benefit like certain individuals and groups do today.

In the middle of all those issues, the health staff, especially nurses, attendants etc can use kind words and treat patients as human beings. But today we do not see it happening. No money is required to treat patients kindly and carefully. All that the health staff need is human hearts with kindness and understanding about their huge responsibility towards the people and the Government. But both those qualities are not there in some members of the health staff. At least they do not care about their own religions.

Last week the Daily News reported that a team consisting of five specialist doctors went to Jaffna Teaching Hospital on September 12 to conduct an investigation regarding the amputation of an eight-year-old girl’s arm, who went to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital to receive treatment for fever.

The girl’s parents told Court that the Health Services Director did so to protect the health officials and because political influence has been directed towards this incident. According to a case filed by the girl’s parents in the Jaffna Court, the Jaffna Court has banned the nurse from traveling abroad.

Including all these facts, a petition with 10,987 signatures by the people of Jaffna has been directed to the President and the Health Minister requesting to conduct an impartial investigation into this incident and as a result, a team consisting of five specialists has come to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and started investigations, the media report said.

Then again electronic media reported that the Northern Province Health Services Director had issued a circular banning the use of mobile phones during official duty hours of nurses and other health staff members of Jaffna Teaching Hospital. This decision had been made considering the latest incident and the public complaints received in connection with the same issue in the past.

The grandfather of the victimized girl had told electronic media that when the girl’s hand started to swell, the guardians of the girl repeatedly informed the nurses but they turned a deaf ear and a blind eye towards the girl’s suffering. Later they informed that the girl’s hand needed to be amputated.

The very first issue with nurses is that they get paid without any problem no matter whether they do their job or not. All they need to do is come to the hospital and record their attendance. This is the very same for all the other public servants. This system needs to be changed and their annual increments, transfers etc should be granted only if there are no public complaints against them. The Health Ministry should instruct all state hospitals to keep a record on all public complaints received against all health staff members.

The second issue with them is they are being probed all the time by other members of the health staff. Maybe those `investigators’ hold much higher positions than them but they all are in one group and always care for each other no matter what happens. It is the same with doctors. They protect one other. Therefore the first thing that should be done by medical administrators is appointing at least one or two professionals in some other field for all investigations against health staff members. They can be from the Justice Ministry, Defence Ministry or a similar connected institution.

A system should be established allowing the Government to pay compensation for the patients who had been victimized by health staff members, especially nurses and deduct that money from the monthly salary of the culprit nurse/health staff member as installments. Until such a system is being established no Sri Lankan nurse will deliver the required service to innocent poor patients.

It is obvious that they will never do their job properly because of the evidence they have provided to the Sri Lankan people during the past several decades. There is this hard fact that needs to be especially mentioned on behalf of retired nurses who served the country and the people from 1983 to 2009. The entire country and the people need to be grateful for them. It is because they sacrificed their health while saving victims of LTTE bomb blasts. Those nurses did not spend time to get a pair of gloves and wear them before handling extremely heavy bleeding patients whenever they were brought to state hospitals during LTTE bomb blasts that took place regularly from 1983 to 2009. Those brave and patriotic nurses put their own lives at risk and exposed themselves to deadly viruses such as HIV during those occasions.

But after 2009, Sri Lankan people started to observe nurses who are always on their mobile phones and who usually ill-treat patients. Being on Facebook, and all the other social media is their priority. Patients’ care comes in last in their priority list. They never listen to the plight of people who suffer with pain. It is nothing for them. They freely use their mobile phones during official duty hours and always on Facebook and all the other social media platforms. During the night in addition to using social media, they watch all soap operas etc telecast over all television channels. They give relevant doses of drugs etc to patients only if they remember. They take medicines home.

The funniest part is not that. They think that they can play the same game when they retire and enter into the private sector. They have no idea that in the private sector people pay money and they expect the service for the money they pay. Therefore they try to ill- treat patients in the private sector but fail to do so when patients react freely without fear and complain to the private hospital administrators.

One thing they do often tells the whole story. There are different cannulas for children and adults. They often use adults’ cannulas for children too because they are very lazy to go and get a matching cannula. Sometimes children’s cannulas can be used for adults. When they do this in the State sector, no patient asks questions but in the private sector the patients and their guardians (educated people) ask why. They go and bring the matching cannula only if people question.

The other pathetic situation is they do overtime to earn more and more money and not due to shortage of staff. Nurses in Sri Lanka are receiving much higher salaries than the other public servants because the former Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne increased all their allowances etc.

All patients who obtain medical treatment from state hospitals and all the other State medical institutions should be officially allowed to ask any question from anyone who involve in treating him/her and a special circular should be issued ton all health staff members in the country making it compulsory for them to answer all the questions posed to them by patients and their guardians immediately without postponing answering.

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