Patients and President’s Fund in crisis

By Isuri Kaviratne

The President’s Fund, which issues guarantee letters to financially needy patients seeking medical assistance, has issued more guarantee letters than the fund has money for. The result is that patients are being refused treatment at hospitals, while hospitals are waiting for the fund to settle outstanding bills.

D. N. Nanayakkara, assistant secretary to the president of the President’s Fund, told The Sunday Times that the fund does not turn patients away empty-handed, whatever the fund’s financial state. Explaining the fund’s predicament, Mr. Nanayakkara said requests for financial assistance amount to more than double or treble the amount of money the fund has at any given time.

Describing the process for issuing guarantee letters, Mr. Nanayakkara said: “The fund issues a guarantee letter, and the patient forwards the letter to the hospital where he or she is seeking treatment. When five or six letters are issued to a single hospital or medical institution, we pay the total amount by cheque,” he said. “That way, the patient gets his or her treatment, and the hospital gets paid as soon as the money is available with the fund.”

Mr. Nanayakkara denied allegations that President’s Fund cheques had bounced because of a lack of funds. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns that more than 108 patients carrying guarantee letters from the President’s Fund had been refused treatment at a private hospital. The private hospital claimed a number of cheques issued by the fund had bounced.

Jagath Prasanna of Minuwangoda, who is seeking urgent iodine treatment for thyroid cancer, was refused treatment at the Oasis Hospital, which said the President’s Fund guarantee letter was not a guarantee any more because several fund cheques had bounced.

Mr. Prasanna said that when he presented a President’s Fund letter for Rs. 125,000 to the Oasis Hospital, he was told to ask the fund for cash. “I went to the Presidential Secretariat to clarify matters,” he said. “The President’s Fund secretary Chithra Athurugiriya told me that some 108 patients were waiting for money to start treatment.”

Mr. Prasanna said the fund secretary had told him to approach another hospital for treatment. However, the Oasis was the only private hospital that provided iodine treatment.

“The Maharagama Cancer Hospital also provides iodine treatment, but I will have to wait for years to get treatment there, as there is a very long waiting list,” he said, adding that his doctors had recommended that he get immediate treatment.

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