A severe shortage of essential drugs at the Colombo National Hospital has led to doctors directing over 4,500 patients who visit the hospital daily to purchase their prescribed drugs from private sector pharmacies.
About 15 essential drugs, including those needed for cardiac by-pass operation patients, diabetic patients and post-surgical patients, are out of stock. The Government Medical Officers Association has instructed all OPD doctors to prescribe drugs that can be purchased from pharmacies. The Director General of Health Services Dr. Ajith Mendis has however warned doctors not to instruct patients to buy drugs from private pharmacies, Colombo National Hospital sources said.
GMOA General Secretary Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya told The Island that the most essential drugs, such as insulin, asprin, atovastatin, lovasvatin, omeprazole, ferrous Sulphate, calcium lactate, carveditol, lactulose, Salbutamel, beclacthayne, and Tab Ismin, had been out of stock over past few days and both clinic and OPD patients were affected.
He said the first-line drugs for cardiac and diabetic patients had been out of stock for the past seven days. Health authorities had turned a blind eye to the situation at the National hospital. The 2008 budget had allocated Rs.800 billion for the Health sector, but the situation in the Ministry and the way of handling matters of immediate concern left much to be desired.
Colombo National Hospital Director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe said that the patients warded at the national hospital were not affected by the drug shortage because arrangements had been made to carry out local purchase for the required drugs at State Pharmaceuticals Corporation outlets. But a large number of clinic and OPD patients visiting the hospital daily for treatment were greatly affected. The poorer patients were unable to purchase drugs from private pharmacies. In accordance with the hospital policy he had placed orders with the Medical Supplies Division for drugs about a year ago and was not at fault over a drug shortage, he said.
Medical Supplies Division Director Dr. Hemantha Beneragama said that the MSD had been supplying around 1,200 kinds of drugs to State-run hospitals and of this 400 drugs had been considered to be essential. The MSD had been placing orders with the SPC on the drug requirements of hospitals and the SPC had intermittently failed to deliver the required quantity on time. The SPC, at times was forced to import the required drug as some essential drugs were not manufactured in Sri Lanka.