President mulls appointing Competent Authority for Health Ministry

By Don Asoka Wijewardena     

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has told the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) that he is ready to appoint a Competent Authority (CA) or a Health Council (HC) to streamline health ministry operations.

The GMOF received the assurance at a meeting held at Temple Trees recently.

A senior spokesperson for the GMOF told The Island that the President had given that assurance after the deteriorating situation in the health sector was brought to his notice.

He said that taxpayers’ money was being squandered in the guise of carrying out highly publicized campaigns to control dengue, rat fever, suicides as well as non-communicable diseases.   

The GMOF accused Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena of turning a blind eye to corruption. Minister Sirisena was not taking tangible action to tackle corruption, though he regularly exposed various health sector officials and trade unionists through the media. The General Secretary of the SLFP, who holds the vital health portfolio, had yet to call for explanation from any of those he had exposed through the media, the GMOF spokesperson said.

Responding to GMOF allegations, Health Secretary Dr. Nihal Jayathilaka said that certain elements were working overtime to sabotage the free health care service provided by the government. The GMOF should realize that there was absolutely no need of a CA or a HC. Such an intervention could be made only when there was a crisis. He alleged that some of those in the health sector trade unions could be making an attempt to tarnish the image of Minister Sirisena.

Commenting on the outsourcing of the cleaning and security services of the hospitals to private companies, Dr. Jayathilaka said that the Ministry would have to weigh the pros and cons of the current system. According to him, private workers had often come to the rescue of hospital administration when state sector employees were on strike.

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