A public appeal:
Existence of a free public healthcare system in the country for many many years has indeed proved to be a great relief to the whole nation. Thanks to it, people beset by inflation get treatment and medicines absolutely free of charge. But because of rampant corruption, frauds and the commissions & kickbacks game in the system, its very survival is now threatened. It has now come to light that a sizeable amount of public funds allocated to the sector ends up in the pockets of certain entrenched big-wigs within its administrative setup. In 2012, the government made a budgetary allocation of Rs.59 billion which may not be enough. But it’s difficult to maintain the service, when 30% of this amount is lost to corruption.
No medicines! Epidemics are galore!!
Everyone knows that there aren’t enough medicines in many public hospitals. Certain essential items needed for surgeries are not available at all. Sometimes, patients have to buy injection syringes etc. They are asked go to private pharmacies with their prescriptions and buy medicines from them. But this happens within a context wherein, container loads of substandard medicines are sometimes burnt down and medicines worth millions of rupees that remain hidden are getting detected. Now dengue fever has reached epidemic proportions in the country. But certain key big-wigs in the system just don’t care. It was also found out that a large quantity of imported drugs had been kept in the medical stores for 2 years. But the culprits were never punished.
Corruption and malpractices are the main causes
It has now been proven that the main reasons behind the dearth of medicines and medical instruments are corruption and malpractices. Certain key figures entrenched within the system have stolen millions of rupees of tax-payer money. Evidences are galore.
- Rs. 1000 million were defrauded in the surgical-gloves-purchase-transaction in 2011;
- 160, 000 substandard saline wire packets were used on patients;
- It came to be detected that in the blood bank, plasma filtration units long past their expiry dates had been used for donors and patients. But the culprits escaped scot-free while the 15 employees who revealed it came to be vindictively transferred out;
- It was detected that the health authorities had imported certain medicinal drugs which had not been duly registered in Sri Lanka, e.g. Zinat Cefuroxine Axetil;
- It was detected that drugs worth 27 billion had been hidden in the Cancer Hospital. But again, the culprits went unpunished;
- Rs.750, 000/= was defrauded in the Health Ministry’s Postal Unit. The culprit who was a Deputy Director General strangely came to be found not guilty and a low-ranking employee was punished instead.
- Even now, the drug called “Lignocane” which is banned for use in local anesthesia is administered to patients.
Rs. 5 billion allocated for local purchases – a fillip to corruption
If a delay is encountered in purchasing essential medicinal drugs/instruments through the standard tender procedure, then they are purchased from outside pharmacies. Such purchases are made by the Health Ministry’s Medical Supplies Division and the Hospitals concerned. Now this practice has developed into a big racket.
E.g. In 2011, when the going rate of a surgical gloves pair just Rs.20/=, they had bought them at the rate of Rs. 67/= each. What a shady deal? Corruption around gloves purchases alone had run into Rs. 10 billion.
Allegation is that the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) is responsible for corruption
A one-time Director of the Medical Supplies Division alleges that the Head of the Department of Health – the DGHS – is responsible for the shortage of medicinal drugs in public hospitals. He also alleges that this executive officer is associated with the fraudulent purchases of surgical instruments too. The documents related to such purchases have been forwarded to no less a person than the President of the country himself and the investigation conducted by the Presidential Investigation Unit did find the said officer guilty. But its findings were not made public. So the culprit remains unpunished.
When trade unions reveal corruption, this DGHS gets the ministerial Investigation Officers to intimidate and threaten their leaders. Next time round, we shall reveal to the public, the corruption that is going on inside this very Investigation Unit
Could a person concerned for the plight of the poor folks who go to public hospitals seeking treatment for their illnesses, ever think of making money, out of medicines meant for them, like this? The public heal-care service is meant for the poor people. So, the question we would like to ask of you folks is, shouldn’t the culprits be give draconian punishment?
It is the bounded duty of all of us, citizens of this country, to protect her free public health-care system. We must oppose corruption and malpractice, in all its shapes or forms. Today, all trade unions have come together to publicly condemn and to urge punitive action against all these fraudsters who steal tax-payer money.
SO FOLKS, WE INVITE YOU ALL TO JOIN US IN EXPOSING CORRUPTION & MALPRACTICES IN THE COUNTRY’S PUBLIC HEALTH-CARE SERVICE.
LET’S UNITE TO HOUND OUT THE MEDICINAL DRUG THIEVES !
LET’S PROTECT THE FREE PUBLIC HEALTH-CARE SERVICE OF THE ISLAND !
Saman Rathnapriya – Health Services Trade Union alliance
Amarapala Gamage – Ceylon Bank Employers Union
Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri – Federation of University Teachers’ Association
Sampath Rajitha – Railway Trade union Front
Muditha Karunamuni – Union of Postal and Telecommunication officers
Leenas Jayathilaka –United Federation of Labour
Darmasiri Lankapeli – Media Workers Trade Union Federation
Vijitha Premarathne – G. & Provinicial Council Management Assistance Officers union
Joseph Stalin – Ceylon Teachers Union
Lasantha Ruhunage – Sri Lanka Working Journalist Association
Udeni Dissanayake – All Ceylon Government Management Assistance Officers Union
M. D. R. Athula – Government Printers Union
E. M. U. R. Divakara – Insurance Workers Union
Dammika Jayawardena – Ceylon Estates Staffs’ Union
M. R. Chandrapala – University Non Academic Workers Union
Suranga Naulage – Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya
J. D. Gurusinghe – Telecom Trade Union Federation
Aruna Roshantha – All Ceylon Fishermen Union
U. J. S. Ranjith – Independent Dockyard Union
K. D. J. Chiristoper – Food, Beverages and Tobacco Industry Workers Union
Darmakeerthi Epa – Government X Ray TechnologistS’ Union
Janaka Nishantha – Government Medical Laboratory Technologists’ Association
Nalaka Hettiarachchi – Government Nursing Officers’ Association
Upul Rohana – Sri Lanka Public Health Inspectors Union
Devika Kodithuvakku – Government Family Health Workers Union
Nilantha Piyarathne – Government Electro Encephalo Graphers Union
Hasitha Kumara – Government Cardiographers Union
O. Vimalasena – United Health Service Union
Geethika Swarnalatha – United Government Ward Clark union
K. G. Sumandasa – Government Ambulance Drivers Union
E. B. Wickramasinghe – All Ceylon Government Orthopedic Equipment Assisting Union
Pradeepa Geethanjalie – Health Department Stewarded union
S. K. Sarath – Health Department House Wardens union
Kamal Peiris – Railway Technologist Union
Susantha Yapa – Media Pro-Tec Trade Union