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Sunday, 19 May 2013

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'Licensing effectiveness deteriorating':

Alarming disclosure of over 50 percent of private hospitals

More than half of the private hospitals in Sri Lanka are not licensed, a recent independent research on the quality of the private health sector has found.

The study yet to be publicised, was conducted by a reputed local institute which looked into the effectiveness of private medical institutions licensing as part of its task to profile current activities of the private sector and the results seems to be alarming.

The research team said that out of the institutions which need to be licensed as per the laws of the country, hospitals proved to show the best track record even with less than 50 percent registrations.

"The percentage of laboratories, pharmacies and doctors' clinics could be even less than that percentage, "a senior member of the study team told Sunday Observer. Private sector institutions including clinics and hospitals must renew their licences every year under the present health regulations. The renewal process obligates medical institutions to undergo scrutiny.

The research was conducted under the auspices of the Health Ministry and thus the team had access to the database of the Private Health Services Regulatory Council (PHSRC), the only body to oversee the functions and operations of private medical institutions.

The study strove to find answers to 'what institutions are licensed and how many had been licensed in a particular year, how many had been licensed in 2011 among other matters.

Since the record for 2012 had not been finalised they did not assess the situation with regard to the year 2012. The findings are due to be released in the second half of this year.

The senior researcher said the Private Health Services Regulatory Council which was set up under the Private Medical Institutions (Registrations) Act No.21 of 2006, had 'basically exercised none of its functions in the past six years of its existence'.

The only function which had attempted to carry out was to issue licences. All other functions such as information collection and quality standards, had not been done or not even attempted.

"The power to set standards, the power to inspect, the power to collect information and withdraw licences are all in the present Act."

He said the licensing effectiveness had deteriorated by the year, 'it is not getting any better, it's getting worse'.

On the positive side he said, "To be fair to the Council, the officials discussed this issue at every meeting", but he added that it has not resulted in any action so far.

The PHSRC's membership has also come into question for its ineffectiveness. Nine members of the Council are elected representatives of leading private medical institutions including those having questionable track records.

A former ex-officio member of the Council Dr. N.J. Nonis in an earlier interview with the Sunday Observer said that a competent authority should be appointed, instead of the current practice of seeking the already 'heavily-burdened', 'Provincial Directors of Health Services' to carry out the PHSRC mandate.

 

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