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No faith-motion against Keheliya: Mixed reaction from health sector

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two specialist doctors, Ajith Amarasinghe and Nilupul Perera, on behalf of the Eksath Janaraja Peramuna, have urged all MPs to sink their difference and vote for the no-faith motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Addressing the media at the party office, they emphasised that if the no-faith motion was passed that would help pressure the government to take remedial measures.

Both specialists explained how waste, corruption, mismanagement and irregularities, over a period of time, and the failure on the part of Minister Rambukwella to address the issues at hand, deteriorated the public health sector.

Dr. Amarasinghe, who is also the President of the EJP, led by Patali Champika Ranawaka, said that Minister Rambukwella should be held accountable for the current crisis that dealt a severe blow to the public health sector.

Minister Rambukwella should be held responsible for the shortage of medicine and equipment, substandard medicines, deaths under controversial circumstances at some state hospitals, and doctors, as well as other categories of the health sector, leaving the country, in droves, Dr. Amarasinghe said.

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) spearheads the no-faith motion against Minister Rambukwella. Dr. Nilupul Perera said that the country was in such a sad state, due to the irresponsible conduct of Minister Rambukwella, that the Kandy District MP had no future in politics.

Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) spokesperson Dr. Chamila Wijesinghe said that though Minister Rambukwella was directly responsible for the health crisis, the situation couldn’t be reversed by moving a no-confidence motion against the lawmaker.

Dr. Wijesinghe emphasized that the health sector was in such a precarious situation, the situation couldn’t be reversed overnight by such actions. Responding to another query, Dr. Wijesinghe told The Island that the entire Cabinet, led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, should be ashamed the situation was allowed to deteriorate, despite repeated warnings given by health sector professionals.

The Island also sought the views of Dr. Rukshan Bellana, President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum regarding the political action against Minister Rambukwella. There couldn’t be any issue over the no-faith motion and the need to ensure the Minister’s defeat as he didn’t heed the warnings issued by all those concerned. “The Minister should be defeated,” Dr. Bellana said, pointing out that had he swiftly and decisively dealt with complaints directed at the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) and bigwigs at the National

Medical Regulatory Authority (NMRA), the public sector health wouldn’t have deteriorated to such an extent.Dr. Bellana said that Minister Rambukwella’s failure reflected on the entire Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government. It would be quite difficult for the ruling party MPs to justify them voting against the no-faith motion as the recent reportage of health sector issues infuriated the public, Dr. Bellana said.

Ahead of the no-faith motion, two SJB MPs, Dr. Kavinda Jayawardana and Harshana Rajakaruna have filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court seeking an order to set up an Independent Probe Committee to carry out investigations against health authorities, including the Health Minister and National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), for repeatedly permitting the importation of medicines and medical devices that are substandard or unauthorized.

They filed this petition naming Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Chairman of NMRA, its members, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena and several others as respondents.

President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, Ravi Kumudesh, stressed that regardless of the outcome of the no-faith motion, the public confidence in the health sector couldn’t be restored unless the government took tangible measures to clean-up its top management.

Alleging that Minister Rambukwella hadn’t been prepared to sit down for a discussion with them, Kumudesh said that even if the Minister would be replaced, the utterly corrupt system in place couldn’t be dismantled as long as the government and the Opposition failed to agree on an action plan.Corruption, coupled with negligence at every level had ruined the health sector, Kumudesh said.

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