Growing hospital deaths and charges of corruption

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Not so long ago -in the late 1990s the health services of our country was praised by organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). Praise was heaped over the outreach of health services into the remotest corners of the country, as well as the quality treatment afforded to citizens.   

Even better, treatment was provided free or at a nominal cost. Sadly for all of us citizens today, many patients are now beginning to avoid entering government hospitals.   

Over the past three to five months, reports of patients dying and suffering various medical impairments after being administered particular drugs in government hospitals has been on the rise. Many of these ‘medical misadventures’ have occurred in hospitals in the upcountry district.   

Even worse, doctors suspect the medicaments came from stocks purchased from the credit line extended to our country by India. Doctors claim imports of many of the drugs have not followed procedures laid down by been by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA). They also charge importation of drugs have by-passed lists of suppliers recommended the NMRA.   

While India has extended us a line of credit, purchases are made by officials via the Ministry of Health. The fault lies fairly and squarely at our doorstep, not at the feet of the country which extended us help during our hour of need. The Indian government does not involve itself in selecting the source from which we make our purchases.   
Perhaps, as is the practice where ‘free trade’ takes place, particular pharmaceutical companies may have invited individuals to inspect their manufacturing centres prior to orders being placed.   

Companies practicing underhand means to secure lucrative deals are not uncommon in different parts of the world. Sadly it is in the developing and underdeveloped parts of the world, most of these underhand deals take place.   
We must not forget however, it is groups in the so-called and developed, rich countries who initiate these underhand deals using corrupt practices which inveigle local politicians and bureaucrats.   
This newspaper raised these concerns some time ago, whether government authorities paid heed to the allegations is anyone’s guess.   

The problems regarding ‘unsafe drugs’ first surfaced around May this year when patients who underwent eye surgery reported eye impairment following the use of prescribed drugs. Funnily enough these drugs too were brought in under the same line of credit.   

While the public were informed that particular batches of the drug were withdrawn, we have not heard of any action being initiated as to whether NMRA criteria was followed regarding the placement of orders from approved suppliers or whether proper procedures were followed.   

Adding to the controversy, more recently on 14th of this month, the Peradeniya hospital authorities referring to the death of 21-year-old young woman who died at that hospital after medication, denying death was caused by medical negligence, said it was a case of a rare allergic reaction to a drug.   

However, by Friday 15th the Health Ministry announced the drug administered to the 21-year-old had been ‘withheld, following two more cases of severe allergic reaction reported from the Kandy hospital from a different batch of the same drug ‘Ceftriaxone’ used in the Peradeniya hospital!   
According to the Director General of Health Services (DGHS), the Health Ministry has initiated an investigation into the deaths, allegedly caused by fungal infection at the Kandy hospital.   

According to the DGHS these patients had been treated with a peritoneal dialysis solution. That first death occurred in January this year, while five died in June.   
The DGHS added it had still not been ascertained as to whether the patients’ deaths had been caused by fungal infection.   

O tempora, O mores… What is the public supposed to believe? Where do they go from here…?   
In other parts of the world, the Minister in charge of the subject would accept responsibility for the failure of his/her ministry and resign. But not so in the land once described by a past president as the ‘Wonder of Asia’   
In our part of the world nobody takes responsibility. The blame gets pushed around and responsible officers continue in their posts.   
Meanwhile, the people are left helpless and have begun to fear entering government hospitals.   

Courtesy Daily Mirror

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Disclaimer: Growing hospital deaths and charges of corruption - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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