Hospitals in Sri Lanka will soon be unable to provide even emergency services due to critical shortages of medicines and medical equipment caused by the country’s economic crisis, it has been warned.
There are fears of a ‘catastrophic death toll’ if supplies are not replenished.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in decades and has endured months of shortages of fuel and other essentials.
Protests against the unrest have spread across the country and extended to criticism of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his politically powerful family.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association sent a letter to Mr Rajapaksa on Thursday saying that hospitals have already decided to cut services such as routine surgeries and limit the use of available medical equipment to the treatment of life-threatening illnesses.
Unless supplies are urgently replenished, “in a few weeks or even days, emergency treatment will also not be possible. This will result in a catastrophic number of deaths,” the letter reads.
Thousands of people, including health workers, demonstrated this week demanding a solution to the crisis and the resignation of Mr Rajapaksa for economic mismanagement.
Mr Rajapaksa has resisted demands to step down, even after members of his own coalition joined them this week, with ruling party politicians calling for the appointment of an interim government to head off possible violence.
Mr Rajapaksa had previously proposed the creation of a unity government but the main opposition party rejected the idea.
His cabinet resigned on Sunday night and on Tuesday nearly 40 ruling coalition politicians said they would no longer vote under the coalition’s instructions, significantly weakening the government.
This turned the economic crisis into a political one, with no functioning cabinet including crucial finance and health ministers.
Parliament failed to reach a consensus in three days of debate on how to handle the crisis.
The president and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, continue to hold power, despite their family being at the center of public anger.
Five other family members are politicians, including Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and a nephew, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa.
The government estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic has cost Sri Lanka’s tourism-dependent economy £10.7billion over the past two years.
The demonstrators also denounce poor budgetary management.
The country has huge external debts after borrowing heavily for infrastructure and other projects. Its external debt repayment obligations stand at around £5.4bn this year alone.
Debts and dwindling foreign exchange reserves make it unable to pay for imported goods.
Mr Rajapaksa said last month that his government was in talks with the International Monetary Fund and had turned to China and India for loans, and called on people to limit the use of fuel and gasoline. ‘electricity.