An unprecedented economic crisis has dealt a major blow to a free and universal health system that just months ago was the envy of the country’s South Asian neighbours.
Suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, which made her joints swollen, Theresa Marie traveled to the capital Colombo for treatment National Hospital of Sri Lanka,
Unable to find a ride for the final leg of his journey, he had to limp for the last five kilometers (three miles) on foot.
She was discharged four days later, still finding it difficult to stand on her feet, as the dispensary ran out of subsidized painkillers.
“The doctors told me to buy medicines from a private pharmacy, but I have no money,” Mary, 70, told AFP.
“My knees are still swollen. I have no home in Colombo. I don’t know how long I have to walk.”
The national hospital typically caters to people in need of specialist treatment throughout the island nation, but it now runs on low staff and many of its 3,400 beds lie unused.
supply of surgical instruments and life saving drugs almost finished, old petrol shortage This has left both patients and doctors unable to travel for treatment.
“Patients scheduled for surgery are not reporting,” Dr Vasan Ratnasingham, a government medical officers association member, told AFP.
“Some medical staff work double shifts because others cannot report for duty. They have cars but no fuel.”
Sri Lanka imports 85 percent of its medicines and medical equipment, along with raw materials, to manufacture the remainder of its needs.
But the country is now bankrupt and a lack of foreign exchange has made it unable to source enough petrol to keep the economy thriving – and enough pharmaceuticals to treat its ills.
“Common pain relievers, antibiotics and pediatric medicines are in extremely short supply. Other drugs have become costlier up to four times in the last three months,” pharmacy owner K Mathiyalgan told AFP.
Mathiyalgan said his colleagues had to reject three out of every 10 prescriptions because they didn’t have the means to fill them.
“A lot of basic drugs are completely out of stock,” he said. “Doctors prescribe without knowing what is available in pharmacies.”
Health ministry officials declined to give details about the current situation in the state. Public health services of Sri LankaOn which 90 percent of the population is dependent.
But doctors working in government hospitals say they have been forced to reduce routine surgeries to prioritize life-threatening emergencies and use less effective alternative medicines.
“Sri Lanka’s once strong health system is now at risk,” UN Resident Coordinator Hana Singer-Hamdy said in a statement. “The most vulnerable are facing the most impact.”
The World Bank recently redirected development funds to help Sri Lanka pay for urgently needed medicines, including anti-rabies vaccines.
India, Bangladesh, Japan and other countries have contributed to charity for the healthcare sector, while Sri Lankans living abroad have helped by sending domestic pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
but the new president Ranil Wickremesinghe The U.S. has warned that the country’s economic crisis is likely to continue through the end of next year, and Sri Lanka looks at the prospect of an even worse public health crisis to come.
Hyperinflation has driven food prices so high that many families are struggling to feed themselves.
According to the World Food Program, about five million people – 22 percent of the population – need food assistance, with more than five out of every six families either skipping meals, eating less or buying low-quality food.
“If this crisis escalates, more children will die in Sri Lanka and malnutrition will be rampant,” Dr Vasan of the Medical Officers Association told AFP.
“It will bring our healthcare system to the brink of collapse.”