Letters to the Editor


Patients pay high price to bolster coffers of medical mudalalis
Time and again, much has been written about the usage of generic terms in doctors' prescriptions but up to now, not a single Health Minster has had the guts or the interest to implement it. Why? There are obvious reasons which are open secrets.

Throughout the years, drug companies have been looking after the top brass of the Health Department and the relevant politicians to ensure that such a scheme is not implemented.

It is not incorrect to say that senior medical consultants, Health Ministry officials and relevant politicians are in the pockets of the drug barons. They keep these men and women happy by arranging fully paid overseas and local holidays for their families, offering full board packages to attend so-called seminars and workshops abroad and even stooping to the level of fully maintaining their private vehicles including the replacement of tyres when necessary.

All this is at the expense of poor, innocent patients who are dependent on these medical men and are forced to pay for these by way of purchasing branded drugs as the medical men deliberately withhold the generic terms.

One glaring example out of hundreds is the price of commonly used worm tables Mebendazole 500 mgs which is under Rs. 5 a tablet. This very same tablet which is sold under the brand name Vermox costs Rs. 73 (current pharmacy price). No medical officer will order Mebendazole instead of Vermox if it has to be purchased from the pharmacy. This clearly illustrates the price poor patients have to pay to bloat the coffers of drug companies to enable them to maintain the social status of medical mudalalis.

Usage of generic terms by the entire medical profession in the country can be made obligatory overnight very easily by issuing a Gazette notification in such a manner that any medical man who does not state the generic term when prescribing brand names is liable for prosecution. The public can be educated to report those who do not obey the accepted law to relevant authorities.

The present Minister of Health can do this if he is really concerned about the poor patients who are compelled to pay through their noses to make the drug companies richer, even by mortgaging their belongings to keep their loved ones alive. Sometimes they allow their kith and kin to die because they cannot meet the cost of branded drugs ordered by the doctor. Over to you, Mr. Minister -the public is waiting for your response.

Sick Man

When Buddhist temples opened doors to all
When certain rabid religious extremists are trying to fan the flames of religious hatred and intolerance may this letter be an eye-opener to prove that tolerance and harmony still exist in this country. Buddhist tolerance was at its highest when thousands of victims of the tsunami disaster fled to temples to seek refuge.

When the tsunami struck, many along the coast had no alternative but to run for safety to Buddhist temples on higher ground. Within minutes, hundreds of refugees, most of them Catholics had to be accommodated at these temples. The priests at these temples welcomed them with open arms. These Catholics relate many tales of love and kindness shown to them by the priests. A pirith ceremony was on at the Malegoda Temple, Payagala when the fleeing refugees flooded the temple. The priest, immediately stopped the ceremony and his first concern was the comfort of the refugees. Within minutes, food, hot coffee and accommodation were provided by the villagers.

The Catholics asked if they could pray and the priest wholeheartedly granted them permission. On one side pirith chanting could be heard and on the other, prayers and hymns. A parent relates how he had to flee with his son, suffering from chicken-pox to the temple. The priest provided a separate room for the patient. Even "kohomba leaves" were provided. The priest even sacrificed his alms and was seen encouraging the Catholics to pray.
We salute and thank all the Buddhist priests of these temples.

D.M. Victor E. Pieris
(A Catholic)

Get those mail wheels moving
The residents of Pussellawa and the suburban villages catered to by the Pussellawa Post Office have not been receiving mail regularly. On inquiry, the Post Master says that mail buses are not collecting mail regularly from the Gampola Post Office and delivering it to his office.

Although he has made representations to higher authorities the matter remains unresolved. Transport of mail bags is entrusted to the Mahanuwara Bus Depot. Recently there was a strike in this bus depot and for days there was no mail.

The Postal Department is responsible to ensure that the mail entrusted to them reaches the public on time. May I suggest that if the problem is with the Mahanuwara Bus Depot, this arrangement should be cancelled and the transportation of mail bags entrusted to some other reliable organisation. If possible the Postal Department vans should be used or private transport arranged.

J.J. Jesubatham

Sri Lanka has to give peace a tidal wave of priority
In the wake of the tsunami disaster, it seemed as if there could be an opportunity on the horizon for a rainbow of peace from north to south and east to west of Sri Lanka. Stories abound of ordinary citizens helping each other regardless of ethnicity, religion or past atrocities. To see a Buddhist temple in the south of Sri Lanka welcome Tamils to its refuge was a startling example of the good nature of Sri Lankans. Yet, in political circles the divisions of high-level functionaries are apparent.

If those on both sides of the Sri Lanka conflict do not seize the opportunity to come together, then they may never. There is no better time for reconciliation than when all parties have to work for a common goal, restoring normalcy in the lives of half-a million people with the aid given generously by the international community. Too much infighting can only lead to donor impatience and aid fatigue with no realization of many of the pledges.

Sri Lanka must give the peace effort a tidal wave priority. For without political stability there will never be economic stability for Sri Lanka.

Merrill Cassell
Former Budget Director of UNICEF,
New York, USA

57 years of independence, but still driving in the dark
Being a regular user of the Colombo/Katunayaka Road which is supposed to be Sri Lanka's gateway to the capital from the international airport, it is a pity that almost all foreigners get their first impression of our country, by seeing this highway in the night.

Traveling on this main road is a risk and a nightmare, due to the lack of road illumination. Only one or two in every five light posts are illuminated, with most of the lamps being covered with insects. Hence areas are dark and road accidents occur very often due to the lack of visibility.

Despite having 57 years of independence, almost all highways such as Colom-bo/Kandy, Colombo/Matara and Colombo /Avissawella are still in need of proper lighting. Other countries who got independence very much later than us like Malaysia have much more developed roads and highways.

Our politicians should be ashamed to invite VIPs to travel on the Colombo/Katunayake Highway. Many of the delegations who visited Sri Lanka after the tsunami have commented on our road network and the need for better standards.

The authorities should take adequate measures to see that at least the nation's main roads are improved to international standards and night driving is made safe.

Ravi Kalubowila

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