Sept 05, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says an important lesson taught by the COVID-19 epidemic is the reaffirmation of the critical need to maintain a centralized healthcare system.
Although most of the hospitals in Sri Lanka are under the control of the Provincial Councils, there are a sufficient number of hospitals island wide under the management of the Ministry of Health which can be easily utilized in the event of a health crisis.
The President pointed out that if the health service had been fully handed over to the Provincial Councils, the effectiveness of Sri Lanka's response to the COVID-19 epidemic would have been much different.
The President states that recent experience has confirmed the importance of maintaining the responsibility of the Central Government on subjects of certain functions and education is another area that can be identified as such.
President Rajapaksa made these remarks while delivering the keynote address at the two day workshop on 'Good Intern' (Yahapath Seemavasikaya) which commenced today (05) at the Nagananda International Institute of Buddhist Studies, Manelwatta, Bollegala, Kelaniya.
Today’s workshop organized by the Government Medical Officers' Association is the 8th in a series of such programs, and 680 resident doctors selected for internship training are participating in the workshop today while more than hundred professors and specialists will conduct lectures.
In his inaugural address, President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka was able to successfully control the COVID-19 epidemic due to the decisive and urgent steps taken by various sections of the government and the outstanding efforts of the health professionals.
He expressed his gratitude and respect to all the health care professionals who contributed to this exercise.
“Even some developed countries in the world have not been able to respond to the epidemic successfully. Late response and lack of a universal health care system are the main reasons for this. This was due to a lack of preparation and insufficient testing. The result is an increase in the number of infections and deaths,” the President pointed out.
“We did not send back a single patient suspected of being infected with COVID-19. Many countries and international organizations such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization have praised our success. Although a developing country, I am proud to say that Sri Lanka was able to make this progress because of our free health care system,” the President said.
Sri Lanka's performance in managing the COVID-19 epidemic is a testament to the strength and efficiency of the public health service. Despite this, President Rajapaksa said it was a mystery to him why many people in our country seek health services overseas.
“There is no doubt about the need to further strengthen the public health care system. The time has come for a creative approach in which government-generated funds are spent on improving public health services. The President emphasized that the ultimate benefit of such a process is the citizen.
Recalling the mandate given to the government by the people during the parliamentary elections a month ago, the President said that the people were thirsty for development and tired of giving excuses for freedom.
“Having a healthy population is one of the pillars of development. It is the responsibility of the government to achieve the specified public health goals. During my tenure, I am determined to create a healthy nation,” the President said.
Focusing on the rural people who have to travel long distances to see a doctor, the President pointed out that problems can be solved by looking at them from an active practical point of view..
“Now is the time to introduce new concepts. Public health nurses can contribute to the provision of health care in villages where health facilities are inadequate. Revitalizing rural dispensaries is another solution,” he said.
Especially addressing the young medical graduates who participated in the “Good Resident” workshop President Rajapaksa described the medical field as one of the greatest professions a person can enter.
“Physicians have a great responsibility for the lives of their patients. The life or death of a person is determined by the conclusion you reach. Your responsibility cannot be underestimated,” the President said.
The President congratulated the medical interns selected for the Good Intern program, which aims to uplift the service quality of health sector. “It’s my belief that this program will increase the quality of medical practice and build the responsibility towards fellow beings,” he said.
Concluding his address, the President recalled the words of the Buddha, "Health is the ultimate benefit" (Arogya Parama Labha) and called on the new doctors to dedicate themselves to the betterment of the people while achieving the highest standards in healthcare.
Secretary to the Ministry of Health Retired Major General Sanjeewa Munasinghe and Ministry of Health officials, President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya and members of GMOA and officials of the Association of Health Research and Innovation were also present at the inauguration of the workshop.