Rural patients left high and dry

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The State should find an alternative means of giving assistance at this time of dire needs to patients living in rural areas and in need of emergency care, Northern Province Coordinator for the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Dr. T. Gandeepan, urged.

He lamented that the fuel crisis has led to a decline in the number of patients arriving in hospitals – especially those living in rural areas being unable to seek medical care. 

“A mechanism should be put in place during this time of crisis, to ensure that patients in need of urgent hospital care are able to at least call a State hospital and seek assistance or to contact a hospital transport facility. Many do not have the means to seek private health care during an emergency, therefore the State health service should also be able to cater to patients’ needs as it has been prioritised as an essential service and allocate fuel to fulfil this need,” the Coordinator added.

Dr. Gandeepan yesterday (4) said the decline was seen in the Northern Province as well as in several other parts of the country. He appealed to Health Ministry and Regional Directors to carry out an assessment on the number of patients arriving at the Out Patients’ Department (OPD), hospital admissions and those attending clinics.

Essential services including the health service have been prioritised and are able to obtain at least some fuel for their vehicles. But patients, especially those living in interior areas who have to travel by public transport are the ones who have to suffer the most. If they don’t have private transport facilities, or have a private vehicle but don’t have the fuel to travel the distance to the hospital, they are unable to avail themselves of a three-wheeler or turn to public transport services under the circumstances. Everyone cannot ride bicycles or motorbikes, he added.

Explaining the difficulties, he said that even if patients travelled by train and got off at the station, they were unable to get a connecting bus or trishaw for the remaining distance to the hospital, Gandeepan said.

Therefore, an assessment should be carried out, while some measures should be taken similar to those taken during the height of the pandemic, in 2020 and 2021 were the Government made use of resources such as the postal service to send clinic patients their medicine quota, while mobile hospital services should also be carried out. 

By Dilanthi Jayamanne