ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has lined up finances to import required drugs for the state hospitals for the next 12 months or more but procurement delays are creating shortfalls of some drugs from time to time, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said.
Under an Indian credit line 200 million has been allocated for drugs, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is giving 100 million dollars, Asian Development Bank 63 million, World Bank 40 million dollars and China has given a 38 million dollar grant.
The money is easily enough for more than a year of requirements.
“I am not short of funds,” Minister Rambukwella told EconomyNext. “This department needs about 200 to 250 million dollars a year to import drugs.
“The only thing is procurement procedures are tedious. For example the Indian credit line. The procurement procedures from my end I have reduced from 9 months to 1 month. But my Indian counterparts over there, there is a huge delay.”
Sri Lanka’s drug procurement process was disrupted after the rupee collapsed earlier in the year and suppliers who had bid in rupee could not make good on their contracts. Some also had supplier credit in dollars which had since depreciated, according to industry officials.
On top of that there were forex shortages.
State hospitals are also seeing an influx of new patients who can no longer afford private care he said.
As a result he has asked for extra drugs to be ordered, going beyond usual practice of ordering an average of recent years.
“Of the vital drugs all 14 we have. We were short of anti-rabies and ant-venin. From China we have got it for one year. Six months stock has come,” he said.
“Out of the essential drugs – it keeps on changing. Now we are short of about 80 out of 385. Tomorrow it can be 60 and day after it can be 120, because the ordering pattern has been disrupted.”
“Non-essentials are ok. The name itself means it is not a life and death issue. You have alternatives, so it can be managed.
“The critical ones are – you die. That 14, if you do not have within the first hour you die. That 14 we have.”
The UNOPS and private donors were also helping he said.
“I do not know how long these will continue. Globally also conditions are not good,” he said.
“The best is to be ready.”
Sri Lanka is in the midst of the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank. The rupee fell from 200 to 360 to the US dollar in 2022, after two year of money printing and failed attempt to float with a surrender requirement.
Sri Lanka’ central bank has since raised rates, to reduce private credit and phase out money printing. To reduce the budget deficit, taxes have also been hiked. (Colombo/Oct17/2022)