Attitudes of GMOA leadership
Posted on June 30th, 2017

Fr. Augustine Fernando Diocese of Badulla Courtesy The Island

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The philosophy of all physicians from time immemorial has been to provide healing to those who are sick. When a patient sees a doctor a relationship is established and it is considered sacred. The patient and the doctor are two persons equal in human dignity. As most people do not have ‘family doctors’ the two are strangers. Yet, one trusts the other stranger and reveals to him/her one’s ailments and related personal matters expecting an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. People presume that such trust and confidence placed in the doctor is not misplaced. Something parallel to it is found only among Catholics who go to a priest for Confession and the priest is bound to utmost secrecy by the ‘seal of confession’. Professional ethics also set certain bounds on professionals.

The medical education of the doctors in Sri Lanka has been paid for by the people of Sri Lanka. When they pass out of medical college, they are presumed to have knowledge of medicine of a level approved by an authority. The people are asked to accept the judgment of the approving authority. Almost all the doctors so approved to treat patients are employed by the Government and are paid by the Government. These doctors also engage in private practice, which means some citizens choose to pay a fee to consult them and buy the medicine prescribed.

The present crisis results from the enigmatic philosophy of the GMOA leadership. The thinking, the decisions to take strike action by the leadership of the GMOA, leading to street brawls with the police, is such that it is called by some an ‘oppressors association’ due to most of the GMOA membership striking and refusing to treat patients, mostly poor patients who cannot afford to pay for private consultations and medicine. The human dignity of the poor is violated and their right to health is ignored. At the same time there are a very few doctors who yet attend to their duties, considering neglect of treating patients a sin. These doctors too have undergone the same kind of medical education and training, but their philosophy as regards their profession has remained humane.

Even in the midst of the heated situation that creates confusion than shedding light, one meets with doctors who indeed listen, pay attention and show such concern to patients who go before them and are so intent in providing a cure for the ailment one is suffering from, that the patient gets so much courage and confidence due to the genuine attention that he gets from the doctor. The genuine humanness that comes from the doctor does not seem to be just because of the fee. Motivation to do what is right does not result only from pecuniary interests, because there are those who are very casual and careless in treatment and do not act justly even after charging a fee from clients for services not up to standard.

Is GMOA consistent?

It could therefore be asked, what exactly is the philosophy (of health care and healing) of the leadership of the GMOA, and to what extent is the leadership of the GMOA in tune with its membership? Does the GMOA leadership not accept that every human being, even a sick one, is of immeasurable value and has an intrinsic worth and whose care cannot be whimsically procrastinated and ignored? How responsible are they of the GMOA for the health of the ordinary citizens of this country, who have also contributed by way of taxes for the medical education and training of doctors?

Is the whole membership of the GMOA so inhuman as to refuse to treat poor patients due to the GMOA’s peripheral issues, with the Ministry of Health and with the Government? Whose agenda are you carrying out? Is your philosophy consistent?

In this context, it may be apt to remember what St. Augustine said: We are never to judge a philosophy by its abuse.

The GMOA considering itself an elite group, above other citizens, has made unusual demands from the Government before: they demanded duty free vehicles and admission of their children to special schools. They also seem to resent and be intimidated by the presence of highly qualified nurses and other well qualified graduates in fields allied to medicine.

What of GMOA’s standards?

Picking up a quarrel with the government over SAITM is neither about standards of medical education nor about free education. These issues do not justify holding hundreds of thousands of patients to ransom. Justifying the strike as a tool to ensure safety of future patients (who may come to be treated by SAITM graduates) by jeopardizing the health care of today’s patients is patently stupid. It goes parallel to those who foolishly and inhumanly think that the downtrodden masses of today should be fodder to build the liberated new society of tomorrow. In spite of many a blemish and not having a leg to stand on, the GMOA leadership is putting on a self-righteous garb, demonizing everyone else and throwing down the gauntlet at the Government. People are scrutinizing well the low standards of behaviour the GMOA leadership is exhibiting to its rank and file.

Long ago, before the GMOA leadership was even born, there came to Sri Lanka several men of medicine called ‘Viennese Specialists’. After that specialists of quality have come from India and Cuba and other countries when we needed them. People benefited from them all. It could also be asked whether the services given to the patient at the Government hospitals by the GMOA is of the same quality and standard as that offered in their channeling practice at private clinics?

Is govt. vacillating?

Sri Lanka needs good doctors and nurses and others who are trained with the skills needed to provide services allied to health. Private initiatives of citizens provide many services that the Government cannot supply to the people on its own. What is important is that that a supply of services is available even at a reasonable price. It is up to the Government to see that what is so supplied to the people by the Government, and by the initiative and management of citizens, is of an acceptably high quality and standard.

It is certainly not child’s play to organize and institute a medical faculty. That is the reason why everything should be done to ensure that such a facility meet the required standards and have the capacity to maintain them. If the Government is intent on doing that and perhaps stop a prohibitive volume of foreign exchange flowing out of the country due to young citizens going abroad for studies including medical studies, so much the better. The GMOA is not calling foreign universities “money grabbing medical mudalalis”.

The former government was intent on intimidating all the citizens of Sri Lanka by many stupid means. The citizens chose a new Government to live in freedom and without fear and intimidation. People do not want to see the Government vacillating on several issues (Constitution, Bond scam, Law and Order) added to which it is intimidated by a clay foot of the last Government which is what the GMOA shows itself to be, with its state of mind that obstructs normal perception, behavior and decent social interaction with the poor fellow citizens.

Fr. Augustine Fernando

Diocese of Badulla

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