Medicine shortage to be resolved by August – Keheliya

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The country would not be facing a shortage of medicines and medical equipment by August 2022 as a number of loans have already been received to procure sufficient medicine and equipment, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella assured.

Speaking to the media at the Government Information Department yesterday (21), Rambukwella said, “I firmly believe that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud. Our global friends have come forward to assist us during this difficult time so much so that the present difficult period would last till only about August 2022.” He said the State health service would not be faced with the lamentable situation of not having the foreign exchange necessary to import drugs by then.

No one would be able to say there was a drug shortage in the country at least till mid 2023 after that, he guaranteed.     

Giving a breakdown of the assistance the Health Ministry has received, Rambukwella said friendly nations had rallied around the country during its time of crisis in a bid to prevent collapse in the island’s health service. “They have supported Sri Lanka’s State health service, vowing to prevent its collapse under the prevailing dire circumstances,” he said observing that the country annually spent a colossal amount of USD 260 million to import medicinal drugs and surgical items. But with the economic collapse, Sri Lanka has received a startling amount of USD 439 million till now. In addition, the Government of Australia agreed to provide 50 million dollars for health and essential food items on Monday (20), he said. Steps were being taken to open Letters of Credit for the purchase of medicines for USD 23 million given by the World Bank. Of the loans that were given by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) we have allocated over USD 100 million for the purchase of drugs, he added.

The Health Minister said that USD 200 million received under the Indian credit line of which close to USD 96 million had been spent on purchasing medicines. When considering all this, the country cannot face a shortage of medicines at last till mid-2023, the Minister noted.

“What we must remember is that after purchasing the medicines, it takes at least two to three months to manufacture them and to be exported to Sri Lanka. It would take at least till the month of August 2022. Therefore, till such time the Health Ministry has been successful in rallying all State health services including the specialist colleges like during the Covid period to help plan and manage the present crisis situation in the State health service.

He reassured the public that there was no shortage of life saving drugs in the country. “There are 14 drugs included in this category. Contrary to reports there is no such shortage. We have even been able to overcome the need for anti-rabies serum,” he said. 

There are 1,300 medicinal drugs that are needed by the health service and they cannot be procured or imported as is done with milk powder and sugar or rice. Under the present circumstances the best possible alternative should be considered as it concerns the health of the citizens of this country, Rambukwella observed.