In Sri Lanka’s biggest hospital, whole wards are dark and mostly empty. The hospital’s few surviving patients are leaving untreated and are still in pain, while medical professionals are unable to even arrive for their shifts.
A free and universal healthcare system that just a few months ago was the envy of the nation’s South Asian neighbours has been struck a body blow by an unparalleled financial calamity.
Theresa Mary went to the capital city of Colombo, which is located in Sri Lanka, to seek treatment at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka for her diabetes and hypertension, both of which had infected her joints.
Due to the fact that she was unable to get a ride for the last segment of her journey, she was forced to walk the remaining five kilometres (three miles).
She was released from the hospital four days later, despite the fact that she was still finding it difficult to stand on her own due to the fact that the dispensary had ran out of subsidised medicines.
Mary, who is 70 years old, shared her story with AFP, saying, “Doctors ordered me to get drugs from a private pharmacy, but I don’t have money.”
“The swelling in my knees has not gone down. I do not own a residence in the Colombo area. I’m not sure how far I have to go at this point.”
People from all across the island country who are in need of specialised treatment are typically served by the National Hospital; however, the facility is now operating with a reduced number of workers, and many of its 3,400 beds are currently lying empty.
Because of the persistent lack of gasoline, patients and medical professionals alike are unable to travel to get treatment as a result of the near-depletion of supplies of surgical equipment and drugs that may save their lives.
“Patients booked for operations are not reporting,” Dr. Vasan Ratnasingham, a member of an association of government medical officials, told AFP. “Patients scheduled for surgeries are not reporting.”
To meet 85 percent of its need for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, Sri Lanka must import these items, in addition to the raw materials necessary to produce the remaining portion of its requirements.
However, the country is now bankrupt, and since it does not have access to sufficient international funds, it is unable to offer a enough quantity of gasoline to keep the economic system moving, as well as an adequate quantity of prescription medications to treat its ill population.
In the last three months, the cost of other medications has increased by as much as four times, according to the owner of the pharmacy, Ok Mathiyalagan, who spoke with AFP.
According to Mathiyalagan, his coworkers were forced to turn away three out of every ten prescriptions because they did not have the resources necessary to complete them.
Officials from the Ministry of Health failed to provide specifics on the present status of Sri Lanka’s public health services, despite the fact that around 90 percent of the population is dependent on these services.
But physicians who work in public hospitals claim they have been forced to reduce the number of regular surgical operations they do in order to give higher priority to patients with life-threatening situations and to employ drugs that are much less effective.
Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the resident coordinator for the United Nations in Sri Lanka, said in a press release that “Sri Lanka’s once-strong healthcare system is now under peril.” Those who are weakest and most defenceless will suffer the most severe consequences.
Recently, the World Bank reallocated some of its development money in order to help Sri Lanka in paying for medications that are urgently required, such as anti-rabies vaccinations.
Donations to the healthcare industry have come in from a variety of foreign locales, including India, Bangladesh, Japan, and others. Additionally, Sri Lankans now living in other countries have contributed by sending back prescription medications and other medical supplies.
However, Sri Lanka’s new President Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned that the country’s financial crisis is likely to continue until the end of the next year, and Sri Lanka is now facing the possibility of an even more severe public health disaster in the future.
As a result of hyperinflation, the cost of food has risen to such an extent that many families are having trouble affording to keep themselves nourished.
According to the World Food Programme, almost 5 million people, or 22 percent of the population, are in need of assistance with their food supply. Furthermore, the World Food Programme reports that more than 5 out of every 6 households are either skipping meals, consuming less, or shopping for food of a lower quality.
According to Dr. Vasan of the medical officers’ association, who spoke with AFP, “More newborns will die, and malnutrition will be common throughout Sri Lanka” if the tragedy continues for an extended period of time.
Our whole healthcare system is on the brink of disintegration as a result of this.