When the life line is with a killer | Daily News

When the life line is with a killer

Last week a very strange news item was published in almost all newspapers. It was about the action that will be taken against the hospital worker who cut off oxygen to all the patients awarded in a state hospital. We talk about this issue today because maybe in all state hospitals there can be minor shortcomings which may go unnoticed that can cost the lives of patients. What matters is the quality of human resources in the health sector and not whether this drug or that drug is available or not. The drug will be given to a patient by a human being and not by a robot!.

According to the story, an employee of a state hospital located in the Colombo District purposely stopped the oxygen supply to 26 patients in critical condition including 10 infants who faced death threat due to the act of this employee. Police investigations found this 29-year-old employee who cut the oxygen supply by secretly creeping into the room where the oxygen cylinders were stored and disconnected the supply. The precious lives of 26 innocent patients, especially the lives of 10 infants were saved when the hospital alarm went off and the oxygen supply was immediately restored by the staff.

We, as the leading daily English newspaper, talk about this issue in our leader page column today because when one incident is reported in the media there is a trend that similar incidents start to report from all over the country for a week, two or for a month. For example, when the media reported how children attacked a teacher, similar incidents were reported from various areas and when the media reported how a school child jumped from a building, similar incidents started to report until yesterday. Sometimes criminals learn new techniques by just watching the television news at night. But the local media pay no attention at all when reporting certain incidents which can be repeated in the society just because of reporting one incident. What all media want is publicity and ratings and nothing else.

But the oxygen supply for patients who receive medical treatment in ICUs in state hospitals is something very important because their lives depend on the oxygen supply. Here we need to discuss a few connected issues in order to suggest how a better safe health service can be provided for the public without spending money.

There is no argument about at least privatising a part of the health service because only then will the public servants provide their service with a responsibility and will think twice before using social media and neglecting their official duties and generally neglecting patient care. The patients will have their say only in a privatized health service. No one will plan to disconnect oxygen supply because the result is sacking from the employment immediately even without any investigation!

The other most important factor is developing human resources in the health sector. There is no point in talking about the quality of human resources of the Sri Lankan health sector because it has so many issues that cannot be rectified easily. When it comes to doctors, they have more than the required educational qualifications and experiences but some of them have never heard of words such as kindness, listening etc. When it comes to nurses, there is no point in talking about them because the nurses existed several decades ago and their existence ended with the end of the humanitarian operation. Before 2009 nurses risked their own lives in order to save people injured during LTTE bomb blasts. They exposed themselves to deadly viruses such as HIV. Present day nurses with less than ten years experience have never heard of Nightingale and they think that they are getting paid for using social media, watching television and chatting with each other.

One example will tell the whole story of present day human resources in the health sector. A few months ago one base hospital located in the Kalutara District performed a surgery on a patient and he was brought to the ward. There was another similar patient at the same age and same sex who underwent the same surgery in the next bed. Sometime later the health staff rushed and took that patient to the ICU. It was the other patient who was in critical condition but he was aware of what was happening around him. When the head doctor arrived after one or two days, he shouted at the entire staff. Somehow the patient who did not receive ICU care survived to tell the story.

After coming home, he inquired about the incident he faced from a friend who works at the same hospital. He had told him that the hospital staff had taken the wrong patient to the ICU by mistake and it was him who actually required the ICU care. This is the mindfulness of our health staff. What can we say about the human resources in our health sector?

The most pathetic situation exists with the minor employees in state hospitals and lower grade health staff such as attendants etc. They are purely political appointees with no educational or professional qualifications at all and they had been brought to state hospitals by politicians who held positions in the health sector during the past several decades. Therefore, those employees think that any Health Minister, Hospital Directors and all should take orders from them and obey them no matter whether they under the influence of the drug ‘ICE’, rape female colleagues, take bribes in broad day light, smoke and spit inside state hospital buildings without any problem or resort to whatever crime during their official duty hours.

One Deputy Director of a leading state hospital explained in details in several occasions the real situation of minor employees who are employed at all state hospitals but the Deputy Director was threatened by them and nothing happened to the minor employees in state hospitals who freely sell ‘ICE’ and all the other illicit drugs, use the same drugs and commit all crimes during their official duty hours. Maybe this is due to their ‘connections’ to politicians who appointed them into state hospitals.

It is very unfortunate that the current Health Minister has to go through this fire lit up by various past politicians who dominated the health sector during the past several decades. He is paying the price for a crime he did not commit.

Maybe the employee who disconnected the oxygen supply falls into the above category, who knows. It is the sole responsibility of the police and the relevant authorities to check his educational qualifications, years of experience, his ‘connections’ to various politicians and other VVIPs, his habits (whether using ‘ICE’ or any other illicit drug), whether he plays the game ‘Blue Whale’ which demand the player to murder several people etc., maybe that specific employee received a ‘contract’ to kill one patient who is on oxygen supply and maybe he tried to do it by killing all depended on oxygen supply who knows. There can be 101 reasons and facts to find out. It is the duty of all unbiased investigators.

The other major issue is, who is having access to crucial areas of state hospitals such as ‘Oxygen storage’, blood bank storage, chemical storages, ICU etc. In modern developed countries use authentication systems to enter into crucial areas of the hospitals. In those countries the access to crucial areas of hospitals is secured with this system and only authorized staff members have the access to the specific area which requires a special ‘door access card’. But here in Sri Lanka with this financial crisis it will only be a dream. But the relevant authorities should be intelligent and creative enough to introduce similar cheap systems which ensure the safety of Oxygen storage and all the other important locations in all state hospitals. At present some private hospitals in Colombo have face identification machines to record the attendance of their employees.

Maybe all state hospitals and all the other crucial state health institutions can establish a small Monitoring Unit and roster a few employees daily only to monitor access to various important sections such as the Oxygen storage. There are several practical and cheap solutions for this single issue. What is required is solving the issue successfully using the existing resources and without spending money.



Add new comment