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Facilities inadequate in Lankan IDP camps: Doctors

By T V Sriram in Colombo
July 13, 2009 15:32 IST
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Doctors treating displaced Tamils in the government-run welfare camps in Sri Lanka's north have written a letter to Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa complaining about the inadequate facilities and shortage of medical staff.

"It is difficult to stay in these shelters. The doctors examine patients from 7 o'clock in the morning to 7 o'clock in the night (in the Menik camps in Vavuniya). They need a proper place to sleep. The doctors do night shift. They are virtually alone there. There is no adequate nurse or staff members," a representative of the doctors told mediapersons in Colombo.

Spokesman for the Government Medical Officers Association Upul Gunasekara said that only 50 doctors were available for treating over 2.5 lakh Tamils in these camps.

The doctors even had to perform the duties of nurses as there was a shortage of medical staff, he said.

Gunasekara said though the government has increased the number of camps to minimise the congestion, it was essential to have more medical officers.

"What plans does the health ministry have to provide doctors?" he asked.

Gunasakara said the GMOA had written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa requesting him to appoint a high-level committee to manage the healthcare needs of the Internally Displaced Persons living in those camps.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan Health Ministry official assured that measures will be taken to provide facilities for the doctors with the support of the World Health Organisation and the state pharmaceutical corporation.

The ministry spokesperson said that construction work on the two official residences for doctors serving in the Menik welfare camp in Vavuniya is near completion.

However, Gunasekara said the lives of these IDPs at the camps in Vavuniya and Chettikulam (in Vavuniya district) were at risk as the health ministry had failed to deploy enough nurses, pharmacists, family health workers and midwives in the welfare centres.

Though services of 300 nurses were required for the camps, only five to 10 nurses had been deployed and that too without adequate pharmacists, he said.

Doctors serving in IDPs were taking high risks and some of them had contracted typhoid fever, chicken pox and some respiratory diseases, Gunasekera said.

Last week, around 5,000 IDPs were found to be suffering from chicken pox and doctors were treating them without assistance of adequate nurses, he added.

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T V Sriram in Colombo
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