Health services “critical”, says Minister – Government seeks life line from professional and foreign donors

Channa Jayasumana

The Health Ministry has sought assistance from medical associations and professionals within the health sector to help manage the country’s essential medicines and medical equipment shortage over the next “critical” 90-day period until fresh stocks arrive.

The ministry has sought assistance from health sector unions including the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), the Association of Medical Specialists, Nurses’ Unions and the Public Health Inspectors’ (PHI) Union, the new Health Minister Channa Jayasumana said.

“We have asked for help from these unions and professionals associated with the health sector to manage the situation. The next 90 days will be critical,” the minister told the Sunday Times.

Health Ministry officials had talks with representatives of some of these associations this week and would meet others next week to explain the situation at length and ask for their assistance, the minister said. The Government is hoping for the arrival of some essential drugs and medical equipment bought under the USD 200 million Indian credit line soon. More stocks purchased with financial assistance from the World Bank and the United Nations, though, are not expected to arrive within the next three months.

“If we can manage till these stocks arrive, we will have medicine and equipment to last us into next year,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, foreign donors are also stepping in to donate funds to various professional organisations such as the College of Physicians. With emergency financial assistance from the World Bank, the Health Ministry managed to open 280 Letters of Credit this week to buy medicine and equipment that it had not been able to clear for weeks.

The Government ran into some difficulties when buying medicines through the Indian credit line when some suppliers requested that they be paid in US dollars rather than rupees. This caused some delays in supplies. However, the difficulties were overcome after the government briefed the Indian High Commission and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs about the matter, the minister said.

(Source: The Sunday Times – By Damith Wickramasekara)