Corruption, Health Ministers and Pharma Mafia: Understanding the Presence of Undertakers Near Hospitals

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Some funeral directors operating in hospital environs, pay bribes to hospital minor staff, including mortuary workers. These ‘undertakers’ are non-professionals who provide ‘services’ to poor families during times of loss and mourning. They work closely with hospitals minor staff. Their agent’s primary role is to ensure the body of the deceased is brought to his benefactor’s parlour. These agents hang around in hospital corridors, near ICUs, and mortuaries to approach the grieving loved ones.   

Ministers are compulsive talkers, they may occasionally make humorous statements. One such example is Keheliya’s explanation to the presence of undertakers around hospitals. Such baloney are intended for entertainment purposes only and not considered part of the Health Minister’s official duties.   

The recent patient deaths in hospitals highlight the need for accountability, improved patient safety, and a more compassionate approach to healthcare, blending Western medical ethics with the country’s own social values. If we fail in the above endeavour, the consequences could be dire, leading to an influx of “undertakers” seeking opportunities in the flourishing industry that revolves around government hospital environs, preying on victims of inadequate health services.   

The Health Minister, along with his dedicated and knowledgeable staff, should solely focus on prioritising the well-being and health of the people they serve. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the effective functioning of healthcare systems, the provision of quality medical services, and the development of health policies that benefit the public.   
The public’s trust in the healthcare system largely depends on the competence and dedication of the Health Minister and his team. By remaining focused on their core responsibilities and avoiding distractions, they can better address the healthcare needs of the population and work towards building a healthier and more prosperous society.   

In recent weeks, there has been a significant increase in news about patient deaths in hospitals, garnering widespread coverage in newspapers and on social media. One prominent incident that has come to light is the unfortunate and unnecessary demise of Chamodi Sandeepani, a 21-year-old girl at Teaching Hospital, Peradeniya. Her condition worsened and turned critical after receiving two medications, one of which was identified as Ceftriaxone. The incident has raised concerns and sparked discussions about the quality of medication in healthcare settings.   

Another disturbing incident that received minimal media attention was the death of a consultant anesthesiologist’s brother, who was penicillin-sensitive. He received an injection of penicillin antibiotic at a well-known private hospital in Colombo and died. Both these cases indicate a severe allergic reaction that caused death. It is essential to have independent investigators look into these cases to establish the facts, as the Ministry of Health has often been condemned for suppressing issues and forgiving medical professionals.   

Rare medical negligence and errors are global issues, and they briefly touch on various factors contributing to economic crises, drug shortages, etc.   
To ensure transparency and fairness, non-medical or legal representation might be necessary, and the idea of a committee of inquiry comprising competent outside men is suggested. There are allegations of use of inferior quality unregistered medicine imported under Indian Credit line. This has led to growing scrutiny of the Ministry of Health’s handling of such issues and criticism of perceived leniency towards medical professionals.   

Social media platforms have also played a role in highlighting patient experiences, such as a case where a hospital authority allegedly harassed a patient’s daughter for sharing her negative experience on Facebook. This incident underscores the combined impact of medical and legal threats to patients and their families, drawing attention to the urgent need for increased accountability and transparency, particularly in the drug procurement process.   

Experts say, negligence are of two types; criminal and medical. The second type medical negligence can lead to court cases resulting in potential damages. Patients can seek redress through various non-litigious processes, such as conflict resolution and complaints to the ombudsman.   

Various conditions related to medical incidents include medical misadventure, and medical error. Medication mistakes are identified as the leading cause of negligence, including prescribing, administration, and dispensing errors, like patient getting a drug too late or too early; failure to check a patient’s conditions or potential drug interactions; not following dispensing rules for a medication; and deviating from the care procedure, leading to possible harm to the patient.   

In such a scenario, the already struggling healthcare system would face an even greater burden. This grim situation would not only erode public trust in the government’s ability to ensure the well-being of its citizens but also expose the urgent need for comprehensive reforms.   
To avoid this alarming scenario, it is essential to take immediate action to procure essential drugs, investing in modern medical equipment, expanding facilities, and enhancing the training of healthcare professionals to ensure they are well-equipped to handle a diverse range of medical challenges.   

Drug Prices   

A key factor contributing to the price hike is the preference for brand names over generic names in drug prescriptions, which contradicts the fundamental principle of the Prof Bibile formula. The disparity in prices between these two categories is alarming. To combat this issue effectively, it is essential for the system to consider implementing legislation that mandates prescribing drugs by their generic names.   

The Mafia or “Big Pharma” throws enormous sums of money to promotional campaigns; covert unethical practices are employed to maintain the brand images. The use of generic names in prescriptions would significantly alleviate the financial burden on impoverished patients. By prioritising generic prescriptions, the healthcare system can make medication more affordable and accessible to those in need.   

Coups and Conspiracies?

Amidst the ongoing challenges faced by government hospitals, the unprecedented increase in patient influx at private hospitals in recent times has become a matter of serious concern.   
It is crucial to learn from past incidents to prevent their recurrence in the future. One such unfortunate event involved a highly corrupt former Health Minister who was found guilty by the courts and subsequently lost his membership in the legislature due to entering into a contract for supplying drugs to the state through his private pharma business. Unfortunately, it appears that stupid voters have overlooked the past corruption of parliamentarians, as he was seen leading the queue to sign the No-Confidence Motion against the incumbent Health Minister.   
This emphasises the need for citizens to be more vigilant and discerning when choosing representatives who will influence important decisions in the healthcare system and other critical areas.   

To build a reliable and efficient healthcare system, it is imperative for both the ruling authorities and the opposition to prioritise the well-being of the citizens over political interests. Collaborative efforts and accountability are essential to enact meaningful reforms that will safeguard the health and safety of all citizens and ensure access to high-quality healthcare services and medicines.   

The “Prof Senaka Bibile formula” isn’t a panacea for all problems or illnesses, but it can significantly combat corruption and cut medicine costs. While not a cure-all, its implementation holds promise in fostering more transparent and affordable healthcare system. 

courtesy daily mirror

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Disclaimer: Corruption, Health Ministers and Pharma Mafia: Understanding the Presence of Undertakers Near Hospitals - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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