The Hospital Quandary
Posted on May 10th, 2022

By Dr. Tilak S.Fernando

Private organisations work more efficiently than Government ones do. The Russian Friendship Teaching Hospital in Malabe could be seen as a typical example, (before and after the Government took over). One can still, have a private consultation (from the 4thfloor) at a price. Could this impasse be due to the lackadaisical approach of the staff working on Government concerns?

The writer recently accompanied a patient to a semi-Government hospital in Kotte for an operation on 21 March. The surgeon was exceptionally kind and arranged everything possible for the patient. The patient was asked to get x-rays before surgery. The patient produced the x-rays taken at a private hospital, but the doctors at the semi-Government hospital rejected them saying All x-rays must be taken at a particular private hospital in Colombo”.

So, the patient had to spend extra money to travel to Colombo, amidst the fuel scarcity in Sri Lanka to obtain a fresh set of x-rays at an extra cost.  This semi-Government hospital should have in the first place advised her where to get the x-rays from?  Later, this hospital requested the patient once again to get more tests such as lipid profile, complete blood count to ensure that she was physically fit for the operation. The patient got all the tests in the Colombo named private hospital to cut down on extra expenses.

The Difference

Private hospitals are more efficient when compared to semi-Government hospitals, the latter lacks professionalism. At the Colombo private hospital there was a special counter on the ground floor to obtain copies of the laboratory tests, which helped patients immensely. It is the standard practice of any hospital to give a patient a list of instructions when a patient is admitted for surgery. The semi-Government hospital requested the patient to come on 21 March at 7 a.m., to prepare for surgery on the following day, without such a list. When the patient reached the hospital, there was no receptionist available to make inquiries , and not  even the parking ticket counter was open. However, when the writer on his return approached the exit point of the car park and informed the attendant that there was no one in the morning” the gatekeeper opened the barrier and let the writer’s vehicle pass without a charge.


The patient was lost inside this semi-Government hospital.  She was advised by a nurse to take PCR and Antigen tests for starters, but did not point out where the tests were performed. The patient has had three Pfizer injections in London and the ‘booster’ in Sri Lanka. She seemed to be frustrated after going through every rack when another patient advised her and directed her towards an isolated spot in the hospital compound for PCR tests. The patient was given a form in duplicate by an official in the main building where payment was made first. 

Later at the PCR test counter the patient handed over the completed forms. Another nurse performed the PCR and Antigen tests. It was amusing when the nurse requested the patient to fetch cotton swabs required for tests from another counter. The nurse’s responsibility should have been to have ordered the requisite paraphernalia in advance instead of expecting patients to fetch them for her convenience.

Inside this semi-Government hospital there were long corridors, which was quite a fair distance to even walk up to the lift area. By this time, the patient was exhausted. Is it necessary to emphasise how frustrated can a patient be sent from pillar to post? The patient was dog tired after wasting time from 7 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. by wandering inside the hospital corridors! After reaching the ward a nurse informed the patient needed to be registered first. So, the patient had to come down again to the ground floor and fill out another set of forms for registration!

Returning to the hospital ward again a nurse advised the patient about the non-availability of private rooms, even though the patient had requested a private room. The nurse soothed the patient by promising to arrange a private room and admitting her to a 6-bed cubicle. When the writer visited her again in the evening, the patient was still in the 6-bed cubicle!

If the authorities of this semi-Government hospital read this column, the writer requests them not to harass patients in this manner.

A description of instructions  should be in the following manner:

(1) Indicate where the PCR/Antigen counter is.

(2) Advise the PCR/Antigen counter staff to be more flexible and sympathetic!

(3)  Indicate the registration procedure – where and how to get registered.

(4) Not to assume patients are aware of the hospital procedures.

(5) Ensure that Private Patients get separate rooms.

(6)  Advise female patients to remove all nail varnish.

 (7)  A detailed list to patients to bring what is required when hospitalised ( e.g., a glass to drink).

(8)  Supply cutlery to private patients.

(9) Provide toilet paper ( and add as extra charges on private patients’ bills).

(10) Indicate that there is no Wi-Fi facility in this semi-Government hospital.

At 7.30 pm, the patient decided to return home and forgot about the surgery.

picture credit: Ceylon Today Newspaper

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