Health Ministry-appointed experts to investigate Kurunegala surgeon

The Health Ministry will appoint an investigative body to look into allegations levelled against Dr. Siyabdeen Mohamed Safi of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

Speaking to journalists at Temple Trees this afternoon, Dr. Senararatne said the Ministry-appointed team of experts will comprise, among others, three representatives from the Ceylon College of Gynecologists and one member of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC).

A national newspaper last week accused Dr. Safi of performing sterlisation surgeries on some 4,000 Sinhalese Buddhist women without their consent. The news report referred to an ongoing police investigation, the existence of which Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara has emphatically denied.

The dubious news report has, however, generated much controversy, exacerbated by – though unrelated – the subsequent arrest of the surgeon due to an allegedly suspicious accumulation of wealth.

“First they said it was 4,000 women. Now it’s apparently 8,000. As far as I know, a C section involves a surgeon, an assistant surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and a team of nurses and assistants. This cannot be done by one man. However, we will investigate. If the doctor is found guilty, we will take action both through the country’s law and ministry regulations,” Minister Dr. Senaratne said.

Asked about a statement made by the director of the Kurunegala hospital, the Minister said, “Hospital staff has assured us that no such thing had taken place. You will see the politics of the hospital director soon enough. We have yet to receive a single complaint.”

The Minister also denied having received a report submitted by the Hospital Director dated 13 May.

Meanwhile, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) charged in a separate press conference today that Dr. Senaratne had tried to intervene in the investigations, adding that he had personally telephoned the hospital director.

Responding to a question on this, the Minister said: “What investigations? The investigations are to be carried out by the CID.  I have never spoken to that man. It was the GMOA who demanded that he be removed from the Anuradhapura hospital. It was after that that he went to Kurunegala.”

A preliminary departmental inquiry would have to be held before a formal inquiry, said Dr. Senaratne, adding that Dr. Safi can only be suspended if evidence is presented against  him at the preliminary stage.

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Our secretary has asked the director to not speak to the media, because hospital directors can’t speak to the media,” he said, responding to questions about his alleged directive to silence the hospital director.

“If it had been a Sinhalese doctor, you wouldn’t have an issue. It was because a Muslim doctor that everyone has a problem. Investigations are under way,” he added.

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