By Dinouk Colombage
Private medical care is no longer a luxury that only a few privileged people resort to. Many of the country’s best doctors attend only to private healthcare and so even the poor are forced to pursue this avenue.
Private medical care in Sri Lanka has come under scrutiny with a string of recent revelations of misdiagnosis and overcharging. The CEO/Secretary, Chamber of Construction, Laksitha Thalgodapitiya, spoke to The Sunday Leader detailing some of the shortcomings of Asiri General Hospital.
Thalgodapitiya explained that on December 20 he was admitted to Asiri General Hospital for what was originally diagnosed as a flu, which was accompanied by body aches. He explained that due to December 20 being a holiday he was forced to drive himself to the nearest hospital. Arriving at Asiri he spoke to a consultant explaining that there was an issue with his throat and stomach.
Asiri put Thalgodapitiya on to a consultant who paid no attention to his complaints of stomach pains. Instead the doctor ordered an echogram, a sonogram of the heart. Along with the echogram the patient had been given 50 milligrams of Diazepam, which is usually used to reduce tension and anxiety. The drug Diazepam has been administered to the patient at a dose of 20 milligrams every six hours.
Originally there was no medication given apart from a large dose of Diazepam and Panadol.
The hospital continued to put the patient on saline yet did not treat him for any cardiac problems. The result of the continual use of saline resulted in Thalgodapitiya’s hands becoming swollen and infected. This infection led to further and unnecessary, operations being carried out on the patient.
Laksitha Thalgodapitiya insists that his treatment at Asiri was deliberately prolonged so as to allow the hospital to continue to charge him. After over two weeks of tests being carried out by the hospital; doctors have been unable to determine whether the stomach ailment was due to a heart problem or a throat issue. The original stomach ailment that accompanied his flu has now disappeared. The doctors have been unable and unwilling to talk to the patient on his condition. The failure on the part of the doctors to communicate with the patient has left him unsure and frustrated.
When asked about the nurses and attendants at the hospital, Thalgodapitiya stated that ‘they have been alright.’ However, he further added that there are only two or three qualified nurses while the rest are trainees. Due to the lack of trained staff it is impossible to expect Asiri General Hospital to have high standards of nursing. He also explained that the attendants are in short supply and do not clean the rooms every day. Thalgodapitiya pointed out the bathroom some days is not cleaned and bedsheets are not changed.
After being kept in Asiri General Hospital for the last two weeks, Laksitha Thalgodapitiya has been forced to spend over Rs. 200,000 on his medical bills. Thalgodapitiya has asked the hospital to discharge him so he can move to Nawaloka. However, the hospital has delayed providing the letter of discharge for 48 hours, asking the patient to allow them more time to treat him.
At the conclusion of the interview Laksitha Thalgodapitiya described his treatment at Asiri General Hospital as ‘similar to being held for ransom.’
The Sunday Leader contacted Asiri Surgical Hospital for a comment on this case. An official, who requested anonymity, explained that the procedure followed by the hospital is ‘normal’ in such situations where they are unable to determine the cause of illness. When questioned on the level of Diazepam administered to the patient, the official stated that ‘he is not a doctor and that the patients must trust the doctors to know the correct amounts to be administered’. He further added that in regard to the accusations of delaying the discharge of the patient, the hospital is not keen on having its patients leave them while still sick.