Sri Lanka’s healthcare on verge of collapse in economic crisis

Doctors across Sri Lanka say hospitals are running out of medicines and essential supplies as the country’s economic crisis worsens. They fear a health catastrophe if international help doesn’t arrive soon.

“Day by day things are running out. If we get to the point where it’s zero, then I don’t know what will happen,” says Dr Gnanasekaram anxiously.

As secretary of Sri Lanka’s Association of Medical Specialists, the surgeon has been busy compiling lists of which medicines are running low at hospitals in the capital Colombo.

“We are short of medical drugs, anaesthetic drugs, implants, suture materials. We are nearly exhausting the stock.

“Healthcare services are going to collapse unless there’s immediate relief,” he says.

If supplies aren’t replenished soon, the doctor warns of dire consequences.

“If that happens there may be a situation where we won’t be able to save patients’ lives.”

Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in history. The country imports around 85 per cent of its medical supplies. But with foreign currency reserves running low, essential drugs are now difficult to obtain.

At his office in Sri Lanka’s largest children’s hospital, Lady Ridgeway, medical director Dr Wijesuriya shows a piece of paper with a list of essential drugs on it.

Next to the name of the medicine, there’s a column showing availability.

Some like atracurium – used in anaesthetics – have only two months of stock left, but other drugs are in even shorter supply.

There are only two weeks left of the painkiller fentanyl, while three different types of antibiotics are already “out of stock”.

For now, Wijesuriya says he’s managing these shortages with substitutions. He remains optimistic that the government will find a way to get what is needed for his patients.


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