News

Surgeries, lab tests face delays

  • Hospitals turn to uncomplicated procedures
  • Shortage of reagents affect lab tests

By Maneesha Dullewe

 

Shortages of medicinal drugs and consumables continue to hamper the functions at hospitals and laboratories islandwide, The Sunday Morning learns. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Spokesperson Dr. Vasan Ratnasingam said that major hospitals islandwide, including the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH), had been facing shortages of antibiotics and antiepileptic drugs as well as consumables such as cotton wool over the past week. 

He also noted that certain hospitals were only focusing on simple and uncomplicated surgeries: “Some hospitals are performing only a limited amount of routine surgeries, although they are not completely postponing surgeries. However, they are proceeding with emergency and urgent surgeries.” 

He disclosed that the supply shortages had been created due to lack of stocks at the Medical Supplies Division (MSD). However, the LRH had continued to function despite shortages due to donations received.

“When we ask for certain drugs, there’s zero stock at the MSD, but they are available at the LRH for a few days or weeks through the donations we receive. For instance, this morning we received a donated stock of cotton wool,” he said.

Meanwhile, Federation for Health Professionals Convenor Ravi Kumudesh shared with The Sunday Morning that laboratories islandwide were no longer performing a number of tests due to a shortage of reagents. 

“We have recently found that around 20 tests are no longer being done at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL).”

Among the tests that are not conducted are CRP, AST, ALT, bilirubin, magnesium, cholesterol, glucose, and more.

He charged that this fact had not been publicised as some senior officials at the NHSL were connected to the private labs where patients were being asked to get their tests done. 

He claimed that the Health Ministry was in the dark about the true nature of the shortages of reagents, as the officials were not interested in resolving the issue due to their connections to these private labs.

Alleging that these officials were using the economic crisis to manipulate the system in order to accumulate personal profits, Kumudesh shared that $ 60 million remained to be used from the Indian Line of Credit (LOC) out of the amount allocated to the Ministry of Health.

However, despite the serious need for reagents, no purchases have been made through the LOC from India since some officials wished to purchase certain ‘branded’ products, he claimed.

This obstruction in performing laboratory tests also meant that surgeries were getting delayed, since hospitals lacked the complete facilities required to schedule surgeries.  

Moreover, Kumudesh noted that laboratory services were typically allocated around Rs. 800 million in funds, but only Rs. 200 million had been allocated last year. Out of this, only Rs. 25 million had been used, with Rs. 125 million not being put to use. There are also no plans for the remaining Rs. 50 million.

Attempts to contact Director General of Health Dr. Asela Gunawardena proved futile.