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Saturday May 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka to expand Coronavirus ICU, HDU beds, non-invasive ventilation in Covid-19 wave

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expanding Coronavirus treatment facilities adding intensive care and high dependency unit (ICU and HDU) and is also ordering more non-invasive mechanical breathing equipment, while training staff, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said.

Whether an ICU patient comes out alive depends on the skill of nurses who have to clear the airways, suck out fluid from lungs of intubated patients on an ongoing basis and monitor and manage medication ordered by doctors to pressure and kidney function, observers say.

Treatment Capacity

Sri Lanka has seen confirmed patients rise to 1,900 a day rapidly filling up available hospital beds for symptomatic patients and treatment centres for asymptomatic ones.

“With the increase in COVID patients in the country there is some shortage in hospitals beds,” Minister Wanniarachchi told parliament.

“By the next two weeks we will add 10,000 more beds.”

By May 04, 13,814 patients were in hospital or treatment centres, with 1,923 confirmed the day before and 944 discharged during the day.

Sri Lanka has confirmed over 1,800 patients for the past four days, while discharges have picked up to half the level so far.

By the end of the day on May 04 1,914 new Coronavirus patients were confirmed of which 1,860 were domestic and the balance foreign returnees.

Sri Lanka has seen daily admissions rise from around 150 to 1,900 with more patients needing mechanical breathing support with a UK SARS-Cov-2 variant beginning to spread after the New Year.

If daily admissions cannot be kept below 2,000 more than 20,000 beds would be needed, observers say. Sri Lanka is actively tracing contacts and isolating contacts.

Though Sri Lanka s no longer institutional quarantine, which is needed to bring outbreaks to zero, the country is providing institutional treatment, which is an important part of battling the spread of Covid-19 by taking infected persons out of circulation, observers familiar with the practices in East Asia say.

Intensive Care

Sri Lanka is said to have around 700 ICU beds for all patients.

“We have allocated 104 ICU beds for Covid patients,” Minister Wanniarachchi said. “Earlier when there were fewer than 200 Covid-19 patients, we have used these beds for other patients as well.

“But now 104 beds are been allocated, also High Dependency units 64 have been allocated as well.
Today 58 ICU beds have patients in serious condition.

“We have 138 ICU beds and 56 HDU beds to use if necessary.”

Wanniarachchi said more ventilators and non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive airway pressure (Bi-PAP) machines were on order.

Sri Lanka’s health system now had 315 High flow oxygen machine, 875 Ventilators, 400 Transport Ventilators (battery powered ventilators that can be used on ambulances), 200 Portable Ventilators.

There was also 310 CPAP and BiPAP machines in store and will roll out if necessary. CPAP and BiPAP machines which do not require intubation could used outside of an ICU setting.

.”We have ordered 175 high flow machines and 350 CPAP and Bi-PAP machines” she said.

“We expect to get 25 high flow oxygen machines and 80 CPAP and BiPap machines in the next two weeks.”

Sri Lanka has also ordered more oxygen cylinders she said.


Sri Lanka orders more oxygen cylinders in new Covid-19 wave

Sri Lanka’s top medical oxygen provider has suggested to authorities to install high capacity liquefied oxygen tanks in more hospitals. The firm has also suggested that its staff be vaccinated on a priority basis to ensure that oxygen production is kept up.

However ICU and HDU units need trained nursing and medical staff for round the clock observation and management of patients. Other Wards also needed more staff.

“Specially, we observed we need to increase the staff,” Minister Wanniarachchi said. “Doctors who are studying for Post graduate diploma and MSc and nurses who are following basic courses, have been released from studies and directed for Covid 19 treatments.”

Minister said if necessary, Ministry of Health will release final year training Nursing students for treatments as well.

“We have also started ICU treatment training and first aid Covid 19 treatments training for in house doctors as well.”

In Sri Lanka ICUs are managed by anesthetists for historical reasons that are not clear. (Colombo /May04/ 2021)

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Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings


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Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.


Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

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300 out of 1,200 Sri Lanka central bank staff works on EPF: CB Governor

ECONOMYNEXT – About 300 central bank staff out of 1,200 are employed in the Employees Provident Fund and related work, Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the function due to be transferred to a separate agency after a revamp of its governing law.

“When it comes to the EPF there is an obvious conflict of interest. We are very happy to take that function out,” Governor Weerasinghe told a forum organized by Colombo-based Advocata Institute.

“We have about 300 staff out of 1,200 including contract staff, almost 150 of permanent staff is employed to run this huge operation. I don’t think the central bank should be doing this business,”

The EPF had come under fire in the past over questionable investments in stocks and also bonds.

In addition, the central bank also faced a conflict of interest because it had another agency function to sell bonds for the Treasury at the lowest possible price, not to mention its monetary policy functions.

“There has been a lot of allegations on the management of this fund. This is the biggest fund of the private sector; about 2.6 million active, I think about 10 million accounts.

“When it comes to EPF, obviously there’s another thing. We obviously have, in terms of resources, on the Central Bank, that has a clear conflict because we are responsible for the members.

“We have to give them a, as a custodian of the fund, we have to give them a maximum return for the members.

“For us to get the maximum return, on one hand, we determine the interest rates as multi-policy. On the other hand, we are managing public debt as a, raising funds for the government.

“And on the third hand, this EPF is investing 90 percent in government securities. And also, interest rates we determine, and they want to get the maximum interest. That’s a clear conflict, obviously, there’s no question.”

A separate agency is to be set up, he said.

“It’s up to the government or the members to determine to establish a new institution that has a trust and credibility and confidence of the members that this institution will be able to manage and secure an interest and give them a reasonable return, good return for their lifetime savings,” Governor Weerasinghe said.

“The question is that how whether we have whether we can develop that institution, whether we have the strong institution with accountability and the proper governance for this thing.

“I don’t think it should be given completely to a private sector business to run that. Because one is that here we have no regulatory institution. Pension funds are not a regulated business.

“First one is we need to establish, government should establish a regulatory agency to regulate not only the EPF business fund, there are several other similar funds are not properly regulated.

“Once we have proper regulations like we regulate banks, then we can have a can ensure proper practices are basically adopted by all these institutions.

“Then you can develop an institution that we who can run this and can be taken back by the Labour Department. I’m not sure Labour Department has the capacity to do all these things.”

While some EPF managers had come under scrutiny during the bondscam and for questionable stock investments, in recent years, it had earned better returns under the central bank management than some private funds that underwent debt restructuring according to capital market analysts with knowledge of he matter. (Colombo/May24/2024)

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