Plus - Letters to the editor

Is apathy linked to non-glamorous nature of specialty?

The Sunday Times must be congratulated, along with Professor Colvin Gunaratne and his team, for focusing attention on the most important and urgent problem of geriatrics.

It is a severe indictment of our Health Services, i.e. the Ministry of Health and professional medical bodies in the country, for the fact that, not even the National Hospital in Colombo, the apex body of health care institutes in the country, which boasts of several high tech well staffed and well equipped (at a high cost) state of the art health care provision centres, does not have a single geriatrician on the staff, in charge of a geriatric unit.

Even the GMOA which keeps on agitating all the time about staffing and other matters and maintains that it always champions the needs of the people, has never once (to my knowledge) agitated about the urgent necessity of having geriatricians appointed to the government hospitals. At least let's start with the National Hospital.

Is the apathy of the profession at large due to the fact that this is a non-glamorous specialty, where the returns to the individual specialist would certainly not match those in other 'exciting' specialties? Is it not time that the profession as a whole, shook the administration up to take urgent action in this matter? Does it not put to shame our leading specialists that a red alert had to be sounded not by a practising specialist, but by a Professor in the pre-clinical sciences, who has always had the interests of the medically needy at heart?

Encompassing the care of an elderly sick patient (a care, which world-wide is considered a specialty in its own right) is the much larger problem of the overall care of the elderly. This is a problem which calls for a carefully worked out island-wide programme involving the Ministries of Health and Social Services. It is certainly no easy task.

Such a programme cannot be left to professionals alone, but must involve grass roots level people in a particular region, who are induced to see, for themselves, the need and the final benefits of a community based co-operative effort, no doubt with the help of the professionals.

I believe that among the people of a country where there is a deep cultural feeling for the care of the elderly (though, in these hard times, the difficulty that young people could have in making ends meet is making a dent in this ingrained cultural trait) with careful planning and handling, it could be possible to mobilize younger members of the community to serve as health/social care workers, on a voluntary basis. Workers who could visit elderly people in their homes,if for nothing else, the much needed company of understanding human beings.

The fully developed programme - it necessarily would be an on-going, developing programme - cannot be put in place right away, but it should be attempted first in a small way and then gradually developed, by the concerned people themselves. It would be a mistake to start off with an involved plan with a grand design. I would commend to those who would hopefully take up this challenge, the words of a former governor of Sri Lanka, Sir Andrew Caldecott, 'Hemin, hemin'.

Over to you, Ministries of Health and Social Services, medical professionals of all categories, social workers, NGO's and civic minded citizens, in particular, among the affluent, and above all the young and healthy of our country who will one day find that they need the help of a concerned care-giver. The reward for this type of work cannot be presented in a financial report! It would just lodge within the hearts of those who have been helpful to those in need of help.

Mark Amerasinghe, Kandy

Forgotten artistes: Bring back their work

The media has fittingly gone into over-drive in publishing many tributes to the excellence of the late Joe Abeywickreme’s unique acting prowess. There are many others—actors, actresses, singers and musicians who constitute only nostalgic memories to many in this country.

Shouldn’t all the fanfare that usually accompanies the demise of an actor of the calibre of Joe Abeywickrema be channelled by our Ministry of Cultural Affairs to show-case their artistry by a festival of their work?

This would be the best tribute that could be paid to them besides reviving memories of the unique qualities of their expertise. It would also give an opportunity to the younger generation to become aware of their artistic contributions.

Many of these icons, were not affluent and they faced hard times during the last years of their lives. The income generated from the revivals of their past performances should in all fairness be given to their dependants. Scholarships in their name to promising youngsters in their particular field of expertise could also be the best memorial to the talent and pleasure they once gave us.

Rita Perera, Kelaniya

All pensioners should be treated equally

Pensioners are pensioners be they clerks, officers or secretaries. They have given their best to the country. Whatever post they held prior to retirement they are an important segment of our society.
At a time they face many difficulties due to delaying of their pension arrears it is the responsibility of society to take care of them without considering their caste or grade.

The world marked another International Day for Elders on October 1. But it is sad to note the following incidents that violated their rights were reported.

A) S.Abeywickrama of Nugegoda writing to the English weekly (Lakbima News 18.09.2011) under the title of "Kissing goes by favour" has complained that certain government pensioners who held high posts such as secretaries and other top officials have got their pension arrears (government servants salary revision -2006) unofficially through officials themselves.

B) The Bank of Ceylon has introduced a new medical scheme for its pensioners with effect from January this year. Although it is a good move by the bank when comparing contribution towards this scheme it is regrettable that pensioners who retired as "A" class officers have been granted more benefits.

C) The AGM of the BoC Pensioners’ Association was held at the GOH hotel this year too. Pensioners who had been invited to this meeting were all top ranking pensioners such as former General Managers of the bank and others who held senior posts. However, the members of the association still do not know the names of the new office bearers appointed by them for the current year. It was reported that they enjoyed this day by holding a grand party neglecting their fellow members.

But they did not even publish a paper advertisement mentioning the names of the new office bearers for the information of all members of the association.


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