The Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) yesterday said that it could not initiate disciplinary action against Dr. Indika Sudarshan Balage under investigation for the alleged killing of a garment factory girl at the Negombo base hospital as it could not move against the suspect without a formal complaint.
Dr. H.H.R. Samarasinghe, President of the Council emphasized that `we must receive a complaint from a magistrate, head of a department or the public with supporting documents`` to proceed in the matter.
He invited this writer who has written several news reports on the incident to lodge a complaint and assured that `we`ll follow the law.`
A spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Medical Association said that it didn`t have the authority to take disciplinary action.
`We strongly believe punitive action should be taken as a further delay would be a black mark on the entire profession,` the official said.
He said the SLMA wanted the SLMC to act without further delay.
A GMOA official said that once the SLMC, following an inquiry, strikes off the name of the suspect from the roll of medical practitioners, he would automatically lose the GMOA membership.
According to him, GMOA representatives on the SLMC have already pushed for action in this regard.
The suspect is the first doctor accused of killing a patient under his care within a medical institution. The ongoing investigation has revealed a tale of gross negligence on the part of medical administrators and the Health Ministry.
Had L.M. Beatrice, a member of the private janitorial service hired by the Negombo Base Hospital, listened to the advice of a nurse, the horrific killing of 22-year-old garment worker Chamila Dissanayake on November 12 would have been recorded as a case of suicide.
A visibly shaken janitorial worker told Negombo Acting Magistrate Prabath Ranasinghe that she was told to keep her mouth shut. She quoted the nurse as saying that they shouldn`t be concerned about what a dosthara mahattaya did. `So don`t tell anyone.`
A police investigator said that had Beatrice remained silent, Chamila`s killing would have been listed as a suicide. `That would be the end of case,` a police official said.
Negombo police took the 33-year-old doctor into custody on the strength of Beatrice`s statement before a forensic examination revealed that the victim had been raped and strangled before she plunged to her death.
The eyewitness said that she heard a sound from the sixth floor of something being dragged over the floor and came down from the seventh floor where she was at that time to investigate.
She had seen Doctor Balage dragging a body placed on a large sheet of cardboard and asked him whether there was any trouble. `A smiling doctor said `No` and continued dragging the body,` she told the shocked court.
Her crucial evidence followed that of N.A.Nimal Camillus Appuhamy, a minor employee, who said that he saw the victim following the suspect after a medical clinic.
According to him, she had come there to collect her medical report and followed the suspect when he said that the report wasn`t there and it could be in the ward.
Medical investigations have revealed that Chamila from Thampalawala, Moneragala had been raped and strangled before she was pushed out of a sixth floor window. This floor is exclusively reserved as quarters for doctors.
Negombo police have sought a DNA report.
Investigators have also found out that a girl who had been previously molested by Dr. Balage at the same medical institution had been categorized as a mental patient by a colleague.
Had the hospital acted promptly against the suspect on that occasion early this year, he wouldn`t have faced a murder rap, a senior police official said.
Police are also investigating the possibility of the suspect`s involvement in the killing of a nurse at the Ragama hospital. Although her killing was recorded as a suicide, police believe the suspect could have been involved in this case too.
Some time ago, a gynaecologist attached to the Negombo Hospital had to make a public apology after a nurse accused him of forcibly kissing her. The administration hushed up the incident which took place during the night shift.
`There has been a general breakdown of discipline,` the investigator said, asserting that sex fiends in white coats would flourish as long as the authorities turn a blind eye to some happenings in hospitals.
But with some ministers taking their mistresses to their ministerial offices what we could expect from the medical staff, he asked.