News

Doctors and health staff struggling to report to work

  • Fuel shortage hampers hospitals’ daily activities
  • Surgeries may have to be limited to emergencies, hospitals warn

BY SAFRAH FAZAL

The fuel crisis is beginning to cripple the health sector in the country, as significantly fewer doctors and minor staffers are reporting to work due to the difficulty in obtaining fuel, severely impacting the day-to-day operations at hospitals.

Speaking to The Morning on Sunday (19), Colombo South (Kalubowila) Teaching Hospital Director Dr. Sagari Kiriwandeniya said that fewer doctors are able to report to work at the hospital, as they are unable to travel due to the difficulty in procuring fuel. She said: “The doctors who report to duty stop their vehicles at fuel queues and come to the hospital by three-wheeler or on foot. They complete their shift and return to the queue.”

She also noted that daily operations at the hospital have been greatly affected as a result of the significant reduction in minor staff reporting to duty. “Very few minor staffers report to work, so it’s very difficult to get a patient from a ward to the theatre, to transfer the samples, or to carry out tests. It’s very difficult to manage the hospital with this fuel crisis.”

She added that thus far, surgeries are being carried out at the hospital, but with great difficulty. “If there is a further decline in staff reporting to work, I don’t know what will happen. If so, we may have to decrease the surgeries and limit it to just the emergencies. We are somehow managing with the existing staff, but it can get worse within the next three days, as we have no way of getting diesel or petrol. The Health Ministry is working to ensure sort of priority for health workers, but it has not materialised yet.”

Speaking to The Morning on Sunday, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children (LRH) Director Dr. G. Wijesuriya said that operations at the LRH have also been greatly affected due to the fuel shortage, compelling staff to take on double shifts in order to continue to maintain hospital services and care. 

“We see fewer doctors, nurses, paramedics, and minor staff reporting to work at present. To continue to carry out our services with the reduced manpower, staff who report to work are compelled to work double shifts.”

Dr. Wijesuriya also said that the option to stay at the hospital quarters is also being given to staff who are willing to do so.

He further said that at present, surgeries and other services at the hospital have not been affected.

A senior official at the De Soysa Maternity Hospital told The Morning on 19 June that while doctors have been reporting to duty, fewer minor staff have been able to report to work, thus impacting the quality of the service provided at the hospital.

The official stated that although a few buses have been provided for use by health staff, doctors cannot always travel according to those schedules. 

“The health sector is a complex service because we have doctors on call, or attending to emergencies or disasters, so it’s not so simple. Some can argue that doctors can use public transportation, but for those who are in clinical care, it is not practical.”

The health sector in the country has been under great stress as a result of the drug and fuel shortage related crises in the country caused by the deficit of US dollars. Although the drug crisis is being managed at present with the help of donors, the fuel shortage has proven to be a great challenge to the health workers. Securing fuel on a priority basis has also been difficult due to long queues at filling stations islandwide.