HSTUA holds health officials responsible

Increasing dengue menace

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA) yesterday warned Health Ministry officials that they would be held responsible if dengue reached pandemic levels due to their incompetence. HSTUA president Saman Ratnapriya accused the Ministry’s Epidaemiology Unit of concealing dengue statistics from the public.

Ratnapriya said that the Health Ministry itself had warned of a possible pandemic situation. There were over 13,970 dengue cases reported from January to date. However the number of dengue deaths had been expunged from its website.

The situation had reached a state where the Colombo University had been forced to close the faculties of Law and Management, while schools and government institutions were being fined.

The government has been unable to control dengue owing to the incompetence of Health Ministry officials he alleged.

Identifying a plausible programme to fight dengue, the HSTUA President said that there should be a larvae survey throughout the year, a programme to control mosquito larvae during the rainy season, a system where dengue patients would receive urgent treatment. There should also be a programme to clean up mosquito breeding places.

Instead, those involved were more concerned with making media displays, he alleged. "Health officials have a knack for hiding behind various slogans to cover up their incompetence. At one time it was the Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI bacteria) and aerial spraying and now it was taking government institutions to court.

"Taking legal action alone will not help fight the dengue menace. Instead, the Ministries of Health, Environment, Local Government and Provincial Councils and Education should make a united effort to formulate a strong programme to control the situation.

He alleged that even the establishment of the Presidential Task Force to control the dengue situation had been futile. Even the instructions issued by the Presidential Secretariat were not carried out. A circular was issued at the beginning calling for the establishment of committees within Ministries, Institutions and local governments to monitor and control the mosquito menace. However not even 20 committees had been established by government institutions.

However, a spokesman for the Ministry, who did not wish to be quoted, said that certain statistics were expunged due to undue publicity given to statistics without addressing the real situation.

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