Saturday, July 9, 2011

Joint TU action if patients are changed

The Island, 08/07/2011, By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Prof. Senaka Bibile Commemorative Association (a collective of six trade unions) warns that it will go on strike if the government decides to charge patients for health services by way of a health insurance policy. General Secretary of the PSBCA, Dr. E. M. Jayantha Bandara said on Thursday (07) that nonavailability of drugs, certain medical equipment and chemicals for laboratory tests in government hospitals had already caused difficulties to patients.

He said the government was yet to implement Dr. Senaka Bibile’s National Drug policy. In 2006, the Health Ministry had drafted National Medicinal Drug Policy, through which it wanted to introduce a health insurance scheme.

Dr. Bandara accusd the government of trying to privatise the State medical service.

Several Bills and Acts were brought before Parliament or publicised during the last few years. Naming a few, he said they were the Private Medical Institutions Registration Act No. 21 of 2006, the Dangerous Drug policy was amended leaving room for private health institutions to use those drugs without a problem, while the Act, which provided a health insurance for public sector employees, was amended and renamed as the ‘National Trust Fund.’ The employee who was charged only Rs. 10 per month under the old policy is now being charged Rs. 75 per month. It has also left room for private sector employees to acquire this insurance policy, Dr. Bandara said.

The Health Ministry was on the verge of bringing in new laws which violated medical ethics in February. It wanted medical officers to charge a fee from accident victims if it was discovered that the accident had occurred due to alcohol consumption. However, the Ministry was compelled to withdraw these regulations due to strong opposition from trade unions in the health sector.

Dr. Bandara warned that PSBCA would resort to trade union measures if the government decided to initiate a health insurance policy and charge a fee from patients.