SLMA tells President to prioritise funding for hospitals 

  • Cites acute shortage of essential medicines, reagents, equipment, consumables

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), in a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (7), has requested him to urgently prioritise the securing of funds to fulfil the basic needs in hospitals, as the healthcare sector faces an acute shortage of essential supplies. 

“There is an acute shortage of essential medicines, reagents, equipment, and consumables in government hospitals and the private healthcare sector in Sri Lanka. Already, decisions have been made to curtail certain services such as routine surgical operations and even limit the usage of available material, for the latter to be used only for dealing with life-threatening illnesses. This is not at all a sound policy as what is considered non-emergency situations could turn into life-threatening problems within a few hours. In addition, this is not a sustainable policy and unless the urgent replenishment of supplies is done, within a matter of weeks, if not days, emergency treatment will also not be possible. This will in turn result in a catastrophic number of deaths, which is likely to be in excess of the combined death toll due to Covid-19, the tsunami, and the war,” the SLMA warned in the letter. 

Thus, the SLMA has requested the President to urgently hold discussions with the relevant ministers and public officials about securing funding in order to fulfil the basic needs of the hospitals and for the national immunisation programme. “This is an urgent priority,” said the SLMA. 

Furthermore, the SLMA has stressed that health encompasses the physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing of the people and is thus greatly concerned about the shortages of food and essential goods for people to provide themselves with basic needs such as nutrition, transport, and electricity.

“We are also gravely concerned about the need to preserve fundamental rights and guarantee basic freedoms such as the right to information as these encompass important aspects of the mental and social wellbeing of a population.”

In this regard, the SLMA has requested the President for a roadmap, with a time frame, as soon as possible, on how the President and the other relevant officials aim to meet the exigencies related to the health and wellbeing of the population.

“We have initiated discussions with our members on the preservation of the existing stocks of medicines and consumables to last for as long as possible, by way of prudent use. This may be only a very short-term solution. We do appreciate that even patients having non-emergency and non-urgent illnesses require optimal care and that withholding their treatment will pose medical and ethical problems for the doctors of the country.”

The SLMA has said that they accept that the current crisis has no immediate solutions and is therefore willing to provide expertise and guidance at this moment. “We pledge to regularly meet and discuss with the ministers holding health-related portfolios as well as you (a reference to Rajapaksa) and provide guidance and advice on how to provide the most equitable distribution of the severely restricted medical supplies.”

The SLMA has also requested an urgent meeting with the President and the Health Ministry officials to collectively come up with a contingency plan in order to mitigate the crisis. 

Reports show that the healthcare sector is suffering due to a lack of essential medicines and other items, such as urine catheters, due to the prevailing economic crisis. The healthcare sector has also been protesting in various parts of the island this week, requesting urgent solutions to the matter.