Not many of us have pleasant memories of government hospitals in Sri Lanka. The congestion, uncleanliness, impolite staff, minor staff asking bribes are some of the menaces to mention that prevail in the government hospital system.
But of late, there are some improvements in the public hospitals. Cleanliness comes first to my notice. Though the cleanliness level is bit to be desired, it has improved remarkably during last few years. The cleaning staff does their duty unlike during the old days and the doctors and nurses too are very particular about cleanliness of the wards. Toilets too are better than what they used to be.
Removing security checks after the war was over is a great relief. Earlier we needed a pass to see a patient and our belongings were checked before we took them inside. This is not seen anymore.
There are no restrictions during visiting hours and more than two people can visit a patient now. It is annoying to see that the visitors overstay their time and the security guards have to come to every ward to remind the visitors to leave once the visiting hours are over. Our people never learn.
Staff members of all classes have become kinder and we can hear young doctors call patients “ammey, thaththey” (mum, dad) passionately. Nurses follow more or less the same approach and so are the minor staff members.
You can still see minor staff taking bribes. Last week I had to go to Jayawardenepura hospital and a security guard requested 100 LKR for me to visit a patient since I did not have a pass. Others without passes entered the wards without paying anything but I was trapped by the guard.
Mobile phones are not prohibited inside the wards anymore. Only problem is the staff is not happy if you charge them using the hospital electricity. Answer is to keep two batteries and send one battery home to be charged with a multi charger.
Hospital lifts are not open for visitors in most of the hospitals even if they are multistoried buildings. I think this has to be relaxed.
Medical clinics conducted by the hospitals look more organized these days but you can still see the long ques. This is mainly due to shortage of doctors and the answer has to come from the central government to appoint more doctors to hospitals.
Pharmacies lack some of the common medicine and patients are asked to buy them from private pharmacies. We have to be thankful to the governments for maintaining a free medical service at least up to this level. We can get a lot of medical facilities totally free of charge so lack of medicines in pharmacies can be excused.
Hospital laboratories do a commendable job by helping people to do their lab tests free of charge but people are directed to private labs even for minor tests like PPBS.
As a whole, the positive developments of the hospitals can be seen both in the rural and urban sectors and the system is being changed little by little. But major radical changes yet to take place.