What is the state of our health care system?
It’s oftener than usual that a government needs to be “apprised” of an issue before acting on it. That is what the process dictates, pretty much the same way that courts interpret laws once they are approached.
The words suo motu do spring to mind on certain occasions but that is more in the minority of cases. Nonetheless, governance takes a back seat when it is a court that has to order 14 clinical laboratories to shut down for not having the appropriate permissions, or shall we say license to operate.
In the cold light of the day, this is preposterous. There are basic requirements for such labs because the tests and such they run have major impact on what a physician must decide for his patient. The quality of chemicals, the efficacy of the personnel running them, and their qualification in both administering and interpreting results have to be at a set standard quality.
In days of yore, physicians would refer to more established organizations for such tests. Nowadays the well-known ones do charge an arm and a leg and self-sufficient ones are often accused of asking for totally unnecessary tests.
There are also accusations that doctors are provided commissions for referring patients for tests and even prescribing any given brand of otherwise generic medicine.
Price consideration often plays a factor in the patients’ minds when faced with the choice of one brand over the other, and the obvious question emerges as to why there should be too radical a difference in similar generic medicines.
The court’s directive to close down the 14 laboratories might well be appealed but surely the onus is on the Health Directorate, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Commerce, the obvious first stops in any clinical laboratory being given the license to operate or not.
Trade licenses or relevant papers are to be prominently displayed in such business establishments because that is what they are. Side-by-side appropriate certification and more importantly evidence of periodic inspection by appropriate authorities should be mandatorily displayed.
Due process has to be followed, but if the process denies that which is due there’s something wrong somewhere.
Health is a basic right, and one of the best development projects of the government to ensure this has been the community clinics that provide a basic health institution to go to. Obviously more work and investment is required so as to provide the linkages for treatment to more complex but curable ailments.
Support from the private sector is encouraging, but this has to be in consort rather than in isolation. Specialized private institutions must have a bilateral referral system by which care seekers in the community clinics can have access to better healthcare.
This includes the testing laboratories that mushroom in the cities but are few and far between in more rural premises. Impassively speaking, these are not pipe dreams. It’s the will and the intent that makes the difference and most definitely the requirement to be untrussed by the shackles of essentially useless processes.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.
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