Due to the economic crisis, the country cannot afford to import essential commodities.
Chandrapala Weerasuriya has no recollection of his most recent medication. To cure his genetic neurological disease, which causes him to be dizzy and unable to walk, the 67-year-old Sri Lankan businessman has relied on a pharmaceutical.
He is unable to obtain more because his prescription has expired. The drug is no longer available in Sri Lanka.
“I’m afraid of paralysis,” he said, “since no one cares about us.” Everything is done by us. We split up the housework. My wife is unable to walk due to knee difficulties.”
Sri Lanka’s worst financial crisis since independence is turning into a public health crisis. Last week, the government’s funds reached a new low, and the country for the first time defaulted on its international loans. Without foreign currency, Sri Lanka cannot import food, gasoline, or medicine.
Sri Lanka imports 80 percent of its medical supplies. Almost 200 pharmaceuticals, including 76 life-saving medications such as blood thinners for heart attack and stroke victims, antibiotics, and cancer chemotherapy drugs, are in short supply. Only emergency heart and cancer surgeries will take place this week due to a shortage of essential surgical equipment and anaesthesia. From hernias to swollen appendices, all routine surgeries have been postponed. Only emergency patients are admitted to some government hospitals.
“People will die,” a Colombo doctor told the media.
She stated that the hospital was out of various medications and advised families to purchase them from pharmacies. “Family members went looking for medication, but the patient was dead by the time they returned with it,” she stated.
Doctor, the shortages are getting worse. “I’m concerned about pregnant women,” she said, “because we may not have adequate drugs to perform caesareans.”
Cancer drugs, which are notoriously expensive to acquire, must now be sourced by oncologists. They’ve written to private donors, organisations, and governments around the world, pleading for money to speed up cancer treatments.
Buddhika Somawardana, an oncologist at Colombo’s main cancer hospital, described the “tremendous stress” he and other doctors were experiencing as critical cancer drugs ran out or were no longer available.
One of the drugs that was used to boost chemotherapy patients’ blood counts and protect them from deadly infections is no longer available.
80,000 vials have arrived. That, however, will not last.
“We’ve mostly averted major crises thanks to donations,” he remarked. Some chemotherapy had to be postponed, which could have harmed the cancer’s prognosis.
Cancer sufferers, according to Somawardana, face a significant “financial and psychological burden” as a result of the crisis, since they must now seek and pay for their own drugs, which were previously free and widely accessible in hospitals under Sri Lanka’s universal healthcare system.
Doctors treating cancer patients were strained for time and sought international pharmaceutical donations. He was unsure how much longer they could go on like this.
Doctors in Colombo, according to Ruvaiz Haniffa, “saw this coming as early as January,” but officials had done little to prepare backup plans to ensure that no pharmaceuticals ran out as the country’s foreign reserves declined.
“Doctors encounter ethical concerns,” Haniffa says. “We had an excellent health-care system back then.” Now it’s ineffective. This is completely inappropriate.
If they can, his patients must find their own drugs and spend more than 40% more. Many of Haniffa’s patients, he claimed, had to choose between medicine, tuition, and gas.
Haniffa is concerned about the life expectancy of Sri Lankans. Long-term harm is caused by untreated renal disease, diabetes, and hypertension, he said. In five years, the number of strokes, heart attacks, neurological problems, and cancers will increase.
Individuals without medicines face an unclear future, with the incoming Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, warning that the situation would “only get worse.” Sri Lanka received 25 tonnes of medical supplies from India on Sunday, while France gave some critical equipment, but healthcare professionals think the country can no longer rely on donations.
Sushantha Weerasuriya, 42, has travelled a long distance to undergo epilepsy treatment. Even if he locates the medicines, they will set him back 10,000 rupees (£22) in May.
He experiences regular seizures when he stops taking the medication, which force him to lose consciousness and render him unable to work.
“If I don’t take it for five days, the disease would return and worsen,” he said. “I support my wife and 4-year-old daughter financially. When I’m sick, I can’t work. We’ll starve if my family’s medication runs out,” he said.