Ceylon Tobacco Director Appointed to NFTH Governing Board

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Background

Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital (NFTH) was initiated as a private hospital to provide clinical training for the South Asia Institute for Technology and Medicine (SAITM), the controversial privately owned medical faculty of Sri Lanka.[1][2] From August 1st, NFTH was declared a government hospital functioning under a board of Directors and providing free health services. The takeover was the government’s solution to the criticism made by different parties including the Sri Lanka Medical Council, that SAITM is not providing adequate clinical training.[2][3][4][5][6]

Dinesh Weerakkody Appointed as a Director in NFTH

Image 1: The state-owned newspaper Daily News reporting the Minister of Health’s response[7]

In late July 2017, media reported that Dinesh Weerakkody, an independent Director of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) was appointed to the Governing Board of NFTH. According to media reports, the appointment was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, the decision making body of the Sri Lankan Parliament, headed by the President of Sri Lanka.[8][9]

This appointment is contradictory to the recommendations of the FCTC Article 5.3 on avoiding conflicts of interests in public health policies (please refer to the post on FCTC Article 5.3 for details). Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), the trade union of the medical officers in Sri Lanka opposed this appointment by a press-release.[10]

Minister of Health’s Justification

Minister of Health and the Cabinet Spokesperson, Rajitha Senaratne, justified the appointment in the media conference to announce cabinet decisions held on 30th July 2017. The reasons for justification given were Weerakkody being a Chartered Accountant and an Advisor to the Prime Minister (Image 1). He criticised GMOA for opposing the appointment, stating Weerakkody coordinated the discussions on the SAITM issue between the GMOA and the Prime Minister. GMOA’s opposition was further criticized by the Minister stating it is seemingly made out of hatred towards tobacco companies. He further elaborated stating that even though Sri Lankan government implement policies against tobacco, it does not bear hatred towards tobacco companies.[11][12][13][7]

Public Response

The appointment and the Minister’s justification was widely criticized in the mainstream and social media (Gallery), some referring to FCTC Article 5.3.

Gallery:

Tobacco Unmasked Resources

Other relevant TobaccoUnmasked entries:

Notes

  1. Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital Website. NFTH home, undated, accessed August 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 D De Alwis. Government seizes control of private teaching hospital, University World News, 30 June 2017, accessed August 2017
  3. ColomboPage. Government to take over The Neville Fernando Hospital tomorrow, 16 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  4. Lanka Business Online. Neville Fernando hospital handed over to government, 17 July 2017, accessed August, 2017
  5. S Gunasekara. Govt to Takeover NFTH, Ceylon Today, 08 April 2017, accessed August 2017
  6. DailyFT. Government takes over Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital, 18 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 N Gunathilake. Appointment of Director to Dr. Neville Fernando Hospital: Health Minister responds, Daily News, 31st July 2017, accessed August 2017
  8. DailyFT. Cabinet nod for Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital’s board of governors, 27 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  9. Daily Mirror. NFTH Managed by 14-member board of directors from Aug.1, 28 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  10. Government Medical Officers’ Association. Press Release, 27 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  11. C Sampath. රජයේ වෛද්‍ය නිලධාරින්ගේ සංගමය චෝදනා කරන පුද්ගලයා වරලත් ගණකාධිකාරවරයෙකු මෙන්ම, අග්‍රාමාත්‍යවරයාගේ උපදේශකවරයෙක්. Ada, 31 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  12. C De Silva. නෙවිල් ප්‍රනාන්දු රෝහලේ පාලක මණ්ඩලයට පත්කළේ වරලත් ගණකාධිකාරවරයෙක්. Divayina, 31 July 2017, accessed August 2017
  13. S Wijesinghe. වෛද්‍ය සංගමයේ චෝදනාව විලි ලැජ්ජාවක්. Lakbima, 31st July 2017, accessed August 2017