DON’T fall ill or get into accidents: That’s the advice doctors in Sri Lanka are giving to patients as the country’s economic crisis leaves its health care system short of drugs and other vital supplies.
The South Asian island nation lacks the money to pay for basic imports like fuel and food, and medicine is also running out. Such troubles threaten to undo its huge gains in public health in recent decades.
Some doctors have turned to social media to try to get donations of supplies or the funds to buy them. They’re also urging Sri Lankans living overseas to help. So far there’s no sign of an end to the crisis that has thrust the country into an economic and political meltdown.
That means 15-year-old Hasini Wasana might not get the medicine she needs to protect her transplanted kidney. Diagnosed with a kidney ailment as a toddler, she got a transplant nine months ago and needs to take an immune suppressant every day for the rest of her life to prevent her body from rejecting the organ.
Hasini’s family is depending on donors to help now that her hospital can no longer provide the Tacrolimus tablets that she received for free until now.
Cancer hospitals, too, are struggling to maintain stocks of essential drugs to ensure uninterrupted treatment.
“Don’t get ill, don’t get injured, don’t do anything that will make you go to a hospital for treatment unnecessarily,” said Samath Dharmaratne, president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. “That is how I can explain it; this is a serious situation.”
Dr. Charles Nugawela, who heads a kidney hospital in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, said that his hospital has kept running thanks to the largesse of donors but has resorted to providing medicine only to patients whose illness has advanced to the stage where they need dialysis. Nugawela worries the hospital might have to put off all but the most urgent surgeries because of a shortage of suture materials.
The Sri Lanka College of Oncologists gave a list of drugs to the Health Ministry that “are very essential, that all hospitals have to have all the time,” said Dr. Nadarajah Jeyakumaran, who heads the college. But the Government is having a hard time providing them, he said.