Sri Lanka medical doctors warn of ‘disaster’ as medicines run low | Well being Information

Colombo, Sri Lanka – Docs in Sri Lanka have warned {that a} catastrophic variety of individuals may die because the crisis-hit nation’s healthcare system teeters on the sting of collapse amid crippling energy cuts and shortages of life-saving drugs.

Medicine to deal with coronary heart assaults and tubes to assist new child infants breathe are in brief provide nationwide, officers and well being employees mentioned, whereas blackouts are forcing medical doctors in rural Sri Lanka to sew wounds and deal with snakebites in the dead of night.

The scenario is so dire that a number of hospitals have suspended routine surgical procedures and drastically diminished the variety of laboratory assessments, in accordance with inside paperwork, forcing medical doctors, nurses and different healthcare employees to take to the streets in protest.

Some have additionally backed a rising protest motion that has been calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation.

“All Sri Lankan hospitals are on the breaking point,” mentioned Dr Senal Fernando, secretary on the Authorities Medical Officers Affiliation. “The scenario will deteriorate within the subsequent two weeks and folks will begin dying if motion will not be taken now.”

Any affected person deaths on account of drug shortages may end in “riots on the hospitals”, he warned, including that the federal government has didn’t acknowledge or be clear concerning the severity of the disaster.

“The federal government doesn’t care. They don’t inform the individuals something.”

Sri Lanka, an island nation of twenty-two million individuals, is grappling with its worst monetary disaster in a long time. An financial system battered by the COVID-19 pandemic has been pushed to the brink of meltdown, partly because of the Rajapaksa authorities dipping into the nation’s overseas reserve to repay its money owed.

In lower than two years, the reserve has plunged by greater than 70 %. In accordance with central financial institution figures, it stood at $1.93bn by the tip of March.

‘Nightmarish scenario’

Unable to pay for imports, together with gas and medicines, the federal government has resorted to electrical energy cuts and requested India and China to assist pay for necessities. It is usually looking for a bailout from the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF).

Docs say the facility cuts and the medication shortages have created “a nightmarish scenario”.

Within the central Nuwar Eliya highlands, one physician at a state hospital mentioned the blackouts have pressured him to deal with sufferers who search assist at night time by torchlight.

“My hospital caters to the poor. Most of them search remedy for accidents and alcohol-related accidents,” he informed Al Jazeera. “Up to now few weeks, I’ve cleaned, utilized medicines to and stitched wounds of greater than two dozen individuals with none electrical energy.

“It feels as if we’re again within the nineteenth century.”

The physician, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media, mentioned his hospital doesn’t have antibiotics and can quickly run out of gauze.

Sri Lankan government medical officers protest outside the national hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Authorities medical officers protest exterior the nationwide hospital in Colombo on April 7 [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

In the meantime, within the northeastern city of Polonnaruwa, the place many search medical assist for snakebites, one other physician mentioned he has had to make use of lanterns throughout blackouts.

“However diagnosing the severity of snake bites underneath a lantern will not be simple,” he mentioned. “Individuals’s lives are at stake”.

He added that the state-run clinic that he works in has to ship any extreme instances to an even bigger hospital, however a diesel scarcity has meant that “it’s more and more exhausting to get an ambulance”.

Hospitals in Sri Lanka’s largest cities have been spared from the facility cuts, however a number of have been ordered by the federal government to droop routine surgical procedures and scale back laboratory assessments, on account of restricted provides of anaesthetic medicine and reagents, respectively.

The Karapitiya Instructing Hospital within the southwestern metropolis of Galle informed its employees in a March 29 memo to restrict surgical procedures solely to “life-threatening circumstances” on account of shortages of neostigmine, a drug utilized by anaesthetists.

The Peradeniya Instructing Hospital in central Kandy additionally briefly suspended routine surgical procedures on the finish of March on account of restricted provides of anaesthetics, in accordance with native media, however resumed after India’s Overseas Secretary S Jaishankar pledged assist.

Sri Lanka’s largest hospital, the Nationwide Hospital within the nation’s capital, Colombo, has in the meantime, restricted laboratory investigations “till additional discover”, in accordance with a March 29 memo, on account of interruptions within the provide of chemical reagents.

Drug shortages

Docs have additionally raised the alarm over shortages of vital medicine streptokinase and tenecteplase, used to deal with coronary heart assaults and strokes.

“In the event you go to a hospital with a coronary heart assault now, the probabilities of you dying is far larger than a couple of months in the past,” mentioned Dr Lakkumar Fernando, president of the Affiliation of Medical Specialists. “All hospitals are severely affected.”

The federal government has not specified which medicine are out of inventory, however the well being ministry mentioned final week Sri Lanka was dealing with extreme shortages of 40 important medicine and dwindling shares of one other 140 key drugs.

Neonatalogists, in the meantime, have appealed for worldwide assist to save lots of new child infants, saying Sri Lanka was working out of endotracheal tubes, that are positioned by way of the nostril or mouth into the windpipe to ship oxygen to infants’ lungs.

In a letter dated April 7, the president of the Perinatal Society of Sri Lanka, Dr LPC Saman Kumara, known as the scarcity “extraordinarily vital” and mentioned he had ordered hospitals to not discard used tubes, “however to wash and sterilise them from now onwards as we might need to reuse them as a determined answer”.

Kumara informed Al Jazeera the scarcity was most acutely felt at Fort Road Instructing Hospital within the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, however that “quickly all hospitals might run out” of the tubes.

The well being ministry mentioned it was working “very quick” to attempt to deal with the scenario.

Dr Saman Ratnayake, a spokesman for the ministry, informed Al Jazeera that the ministry is looking for assist from the Indian authorities, in addition to the World Well being Group. He additionally mentioned the Sri Lankan treasury has pledged to open credit score strains for suppliers to purchase among the vital medicine, together with tenecteplase, the stroke treatment.

“Now we have ordered. The problem is now it is going to take one other one to 2 months to obtain items,” he mentioned. Within the meantime, Ratnayake mentioned, the federal government is asking hospitals to handle issues, together with by suspending any non-life-threatening procedures.

“Until then, it’s important to be affected person and assist us handle the scenario,” he mentioned.


Sri Lankan medical doctors say that is neither a “sound” nor a “sustainable” coverage.

In a letter addressed to the president on April 7 and made public on Sunday, the Sri Lanka Medical Affiliation (SLMA) contended that “what is taken into account non-emergency conditions may flip into life-threatening issues inside a couple of hours”.

With out pressing replenishment of provides, emergency remedy can also need to be halted inside a matter of weeks, if not days, the letter mentioned.

“This may end in a catastrophic variety of deaths, which is more likely to be in extra of the mixed loss of life toll of COVID, tsunami and the civil warfare,” the letter added, referring to the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil warfare between the army and ethnic Tamil separatists.

Some 31,229 individuals died through the tsunami, whereas an estimated 100,000 died within the civil battle. The nation’s pandemic toll is at 16,489.

The SLMA additionally urged the president to carry consultations with medical doctors, saying the “want of the hour is to be truthful, compassionate and so that you can use the nation’s mental assets within the type of knowledgeable recommendation and steering from professionals”.

Sudewa Hettiarachchi, director normal of the president’s media division, mentioned Rajapaksa has not but decided on the medical doctors’ requests. He had no touch upon allegations that the federal government has didn’t deal with this case with the seriousness it deserved.

Well being employees say the federal government must act quick.

“It is a catastrophe scenario,” mentioned Ravi Kumdesh, president of the Faculty of Medical Laboratory Science. “We’re calling on the federal government to urgently declare a medical state of emergency and in addition attraction for humanitarian support internationally.”

Kumdesh mentioned what frightened him most is that “we can not calculate the place the tip is”.

Even when the federal government had been to alleviate among the vital drug shortages within the close to time period, the severity of the financial disaster means it was more likely to face an identical scenario inside months.

“The results of this are going to be very long run,” mentioned Kumdesh. “We have to name for worldwide humanitarian support. As a result of as a rustic, we are able to compromise on different necessities, however we are able to’t compromise on well being.”