Doctors, Nurses and Attendants at Hospital Accident Ward Watch TV Instead of Treating Emergency Patient in Urgent Need
Posted on June 1st, 2013

Selyna. D. Peiris LLB (Hull) LLM (London) MAIS (Vienna)

Last night (28.05.2013), a young trainee nurse from Nawalapitiya was tossed out of a moving bus unto the bustling street in Kirulapone and fell right in front of my moving car.

While a Police Officer from the Wellawatte Station was questioning the bus driver, a friend and I rushed her to the General Hospital of Colombo “”…” the biggest government hospital in this entire country.

Upon reaching the emergency entrance of the hospital, we were ordered by the nurse at the entrance to wheel out a stretcher and to place the patient on this stretcher. It was not a busy night. Having so done, we were then ordered to push her into to the accident ward which, after disturbing many, we actually found. Here we had a patient who was vomiting out blood and as far as the attendants, nurses and doctors were concerned, the soap opera on TV was far more important to attend to at this hour.

I attach a picture as evidence of this. After painfully having managed to get her an x-ray, we had to run around the ward to convince the doctor that this patient was actually worth having a look at.

Accident ward

Finally, after about 2 hours of mayhem, she was admitted to the ward and we were praying that she has no major injuries.

The anger and disgust that I felt at this period of time affected me to the very core of my being. I was appalled at the treatment which ordinary citizens face in times of greatest need and ashamed that I was too “privileged” never to have experienced this before.

This is the sad reality of this “Island in Paradise”. I am ashamed today to live in a country with such blatant disregard for human life. The compassion and loving kindness so inherent to our culture is now merely folklore.

There are great many young people who are willing to take a stand for reforms in a manner that is the least counter productive for the growth of this country “”…” please help us to do so by sharing this message with people who can make a change, however small.

 Selyna. D. Peiris

 LLB (Hull) LLM (London) MAIS (Vienna)


19 Responses to “Doctors, Nurses and Attendants at Hospital Accident Ward Watch TV Instead of Treating Emergency Patient in Urgent Need”

  1. mjaya Says:


    This happens every day in public hospitals and those who face it are those too poor to afford private healthcare.

    Like private buses this sector is simply devoid of compassion and humane values besides for the minuscule minority of godly doctors, nurses and other staff who are passionate about helping the sick.

    Its the sad reality of our current education system where someone with inherent compassion (the major virtue needed) cannot become a doctor or nurse. These very people will not allow a private medical college because they want to keep the monopoly, treat patients like garbage, strike at the expense of patients for the most trivial of reasons and earn bigtime from private practice.

    My suggested remedy (others may have better ideas than me) for this is to have all those who qualify from A/L to become doctors or nurses to have a mandatory strictly voluntary service of at least 1 year at a hospice, orphanage or elderly home BEFORE they start their course at the university. Hopefully those without inherent compassion will then drop out and find alternative employment without taking out their frustrations on patients later on.

  2. Charles Says:

    If I remember correct I read an article where it was said that a child admitted to a hospital died without having been attended to by any one as they were busy watching the TV at the time. The news item was in the Info Lanka a week or two back.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    And a university student’s arm was cut for no reason!!!

    But at the same time we should NOT make it a POLITICAL tool. This problem must be addressed WITHOUT political jealousy and BS.

    Health Minister Sirisena (SLFP general secretary) has been awarded a DOCTARATE from HARVARD for his transformational leadership. This news was released 2 days before. It is not like Dr Mervin Silva. HARVARD doesn’t sell these!! So it means SOMETHING.

    I hope the TIMING of this news is NOT to disrupt the other event.

    An OBJECTIVE approach WITHOUT HATRED should be taken to IMPROVE not to sling mud at each other and fall to an EVEN LOWER level than now.

  4. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    simply ban tvs in hospitals, if they abuse it, as this photo shows. the whole country is corrupt, not only the politicians.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    This is a bad and sad incident. TV sets in hospital waiting rooms is proving to be a nuisance, it seems. Best have a few magazines for incoming patients to read while waiting. A soothing fish tank is another alternative. The answer seems to be to remove all T sets from hospital buildings ?

    Generally we are proud of the free health care services of Sri Lanka. Let it remain so.

    If hospital workers are tired, there ought to be proper areas of rest for them too. People make mistakes when tired.

  6. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    NEGLECTING HEALTH CARE TO THE PATIENTS, AND WATCHING TV, IS PREPOSTEROUS. As Sunil say, ban TV in hospitals. The hospital is not a pleasure resort. It is a place where people come for health services. The Picture reflects a thousand words. The priviledge has been abused, to the detriment of health care to the needy. So ban TV.

  7. Dilrook Says:

    Unfortunately this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a severe dearth of doctors in Sri Lanka. When compared to developing countries like Maldives, India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka’s doctors per 10,000 persons is pathetically low. As a result their bargaining power has increased to ridiculous levels. That has increased the dependency on other healthcare workers. Together they weild enormous industrial action power holding people and the government to ransom.

    This can only be reduced by increasing the number of doctors and other medical staff numbers serving the nation. According to World Bank data, 33% of locally educated and trained doctors leave the island every year. Most of them are Tamils who are over represented in medical stream of taxpayer funded universities. Sri Lankan Tamils are only 11% of the population but 35% of medical faculties. And they have the highest brain drain of almost 90% leaving the country. Each doctor costs Rs. 5 million to taxpayers and this is a double whammy on them.

    Comparatively, Sinhala, Muslim (lowest) and Upcountry Tamil doctors’ brain drain is low.

    It can be rectified easily by introducing ethnicity based university standardisation. Then an equitable percentage of Sinhala, Muslim and Upcountry Tamil medical graduates will be produced of which most of them will remain in the island. It costs nothing more but saves billions.

    Unless such a long term effective and equitable approach is taken, this problem is only going to get worse. Governments have been unable to tame these extortionists due to their very high bargaining power stemming from limited supply of healthcare professionals to local needs.

  8. Marco Says:

    If one was thinking along the lines of your “equitable” approach of ethnicity based opportunities why not even introduce a ethnicity based tax and social systems. The minority 11% tamils contribute 11% towards the Govt coffers.
    You cant have it both ways can you?.

    Equal opportunities for all citizens based on irrespective of their ethnicity.
    Perhaps, you ought to consider the above article gives a very good example of the “dross” of the medical profession that we would be accustomed to under your proposal.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    We would like to know the other side of the story told here. What actually happened at the ER at the General Hospital on that day ? Was there a go-slow strike on ? Was there some kind of protest was going on among the staff there ? What was actually shown on tv at that time – was it some catastrophe ? Who took this photo ?

    It is a good thing always to hear both sides of a story.

  10. aloy Says:

    This situation is going to get worse. I understand that there is a severe shortage of doctors in countries like Australia. There was an exam for selection of doctors for Australia at senior level in Singapore recently. Thirty six sat for the exam, 35 were Sri Lankans and the other was an Indian from Malaysia. It appears that any SL doctor can go to Australia and easily get an appointment in a remote corner. Should we not have a rule to compel doctors passing out from SL universities to serve minimum number of years in SL hospitals?.

  11. Cerberus Says:

    When I joined a Govt Corporation, not as a doctor, but an Engineer, I was sent for training abroad and I had to sign a bond for Rs. 65,000 which was a princely sum in those days (1960’s) to make sure I came back and served for 16 years. I did that gladly out of a sense of duty and love for our people and the country. There were many others who were also sent abroad for higher training and some of them skipped the bond and stayed on in those countries. A lot of the ones who did this were Tamils.
    It is not only Doctors who do this type of dishonest thing to the country which nourished them and gave them a free education. I know of Chemists, Physicists, Geologists, Radiologists etc., who have all done this type of dishonest thing. A lot of them are given scholarships to go to Universities abroad to get the Ph.D. This is a weapon used by these countries to get the best brains to their countries from all over the world.
    I am not sure whether any amount of rules will solve the problem. The love for the country, to be ethical, to be moral are values that come from our higher self in the Heart. If that Heart has died, then there is nothing anyone can do to revive their Hearts. They go through the world trying to make excessive money foolishly and at the end of the day die off like every one else, but without self respect or a sense of honor that no amount of money can give. In their last moments they have to face them selves and see face their own past actions which can be very painful I am sure.

  12. Dilrook Says:


    You said, [quote] The minority 11% tamils contribute 11% towards the Govt coffers. [unquote]

    This is precisely my point.

    Therefore Tamils should have 11% taxpayer funded university opportunities. Not more, not less.

    Similarly Sinhalese contribute 75% of tax revenue and therefore should get 75% of taxpayer funded university opportunities. Muslims 10% and Others (including upcountry Tamils) the remaining 6%.

    At the moment Muslims and Upcountry Tamils are severely under represented in universities. Despite contributing 75% of government’s tax income, Sinhalse get a raw deal with only 55% to 65% in Medical, Engineering, Computer, Management, Accountancy and Finance facultes combined. Tamils are over represented with over 30% in these faculties.

  13. Dilrook Says:


    I agree with you completely but the personal repurcussions are not sufficient in preventing this economic disaster. And, yes it is getting worse with an aging population. Each doctor costs rupees 5 million to produce; a dentist even more. If opportunity cost is also added (for a proper economic analysis), the cost almost doubles. It is a very complex problem to address. Brain drain is dissimilar accross ethnic groups. As bad luck has it, Sri Lanka showers a disproportionately larger chunck of its university opportunites (at grave injustice to others) on the Tamil community which unfortunately has the highest brain drain rate. If equity and fairness is introduced through ethnicity based university standardisation, there will be many more doctors in Sri Lanka and everyone will be dealt equitably. It doesn’t cost a thing.

  14. TheSeal Says:

    Do you meant to say it is becuase Tamils get more admission to the universities, the National Hospital staffs are ignoring their patients and watching TV in their duty hours as a protest (I m sure not even single person in that photo is Tamil)?
    Grow up man!

  15. aloy Says:

    Perhaps there may not be a single tamil in that photo because they all migrate soon after graduating. This is exactly what is being discussed in the side line of the topic.

  16. Marco Says:

    i do believe from your last comment you shot Dilrook (from his analysis) in the foot.
    Think about it!

  17. Dilrook Says:

    The main reason for this pathetic state of affairs is the lack of doctors despite producing them in sufficient numbers at 5 to 10 million rupees each. They are working in Toronto, London and Sydney clinics. Remaing few doctors have very high bargaining power. It has set a very bad example for their subordinates.

    Due to lack of doctors, lower level staff are relied upon heavily. They don’t have the training, knowledge and dedication of doctors who have already set a very bad example using their bargaining power. Doctors strike work at the drop of a hat and so do the others. Government and the people are at their mercy.

    Increasing the number of doctors working in Sri Lanka is the only solution to this problem. That can be done without any additional cost by introducing ethnicity based university standardisation. At the moment Tamils only controbute 11% of tax income but enjoy over 30% of opportunities in taxpayer funded medical collages. It must be cut down to size. And more than 90% Tamil doctors leave the country compared to less than 30% for others. When more Muslim and Sinhala doctors (85% of all graduates) are produced in taxpayer funded medical collages, there will be more doctors per 10,000 persons and services will improve. Additional doctors’ salaries can be easily paid by the massive saving from the reduction in brain drain.

    Government decisions not to increase opportunities in taxpayer funded medical collages and to enhance medical studies at KDU (very dedicated doctors are produced) are good moves in the short term. No point pouring more water until the largest hole in the bucket is fixed.

  18. aloy Says:

    I do not think so. What he says is to give only 11% of places to Tamils. I have no comment on that. In a way I do sympathize with those migrating. Those days (60s and 70s) people migrated to escape poverty, now they do to escape disorder and lawlessness (starting from about 1983 due to the situation created by LTTE).

  19. Lorenzo Says:

    Will not work Dilrook.

    All depends on where you write “om” on answer script. Every year before A/L exam, a SELECTED group of Tamil Valla-alla-la students are told to write “om” on a particular place of the second page of the answer sheet (in addition to some people always writing it on top of the front page). Those kids get the highest marks.

    Three years ago a woman from Saiva Mangayyar Vithiyalayam (Colombo-4) came top in biology subjects. She used the “om” mantra (among others).

    1 If university admission is the problem, we need examiners to CHUCK all answer scripts with “om” on it, anywhere. (or any other new symbol or smell they will come up with.)

    2 There is a BETTER way – computer gilmart. I seriously prefer this. You can pick and choose who goes to uni and who doesn’t (whatever their ethnicity is)! This way we can keep JIHADI, NGO and TAMIL ELAMIST clowns (and their sons) OUT of uni no matter how smart they are.

    BTW it is better Tamil Elamist doctors LEAVE SL than stay. If they stay they will POISON patients of other ethnicities, kill their babies, cut their arms, etc.! Teaching them is one CRIME, keeping them is another crime.

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