ECONOMYNEXT – Staff at Sri Lanka’s Ayurveda Teaching Hospital in Borella held a demonstration to bring attention to several issues including medicine shortages faced by Ayurvedic practitioners around the island and to protest systemic corruption.
The protest, held on Friday August 19 was on behalf of several groups including the Sri Lanka Government Ayurveda Medical Officers’ Association, the All Ceylon Nurses’ Union and All Ceylon Ayurveda Health Service Union.
“There are no medicines in the Ayurveda hospitals. If we need 100, we only have 20. Doctors have to give close substitutes or sometimes turn patients away empty handed,” said protest organiser P D N S J Bandara.
Bandara said that despite having the capability to produce medicines locally, the government’s lack of planning meant that 90 percent of raw materials for Ayurvedic medicines had to be imported.
“We have around 5 Osu Uyan (medicinal herb gardens) in Sri Lanka, but the government has always come between development of those areas, preventing experimentation. All the medicines we need can be produced in the country, but because there are no proper policies, the gardens have been neglected and become forests,” he said.
The hospital had to campaign hard for funds to provide meals for patients who were admitted there, Bandara said.
“The people coming here are not rich people; but when they get admitted we can’t even feed them. There was a time when patients only had rice and gravy.”
Bandara alleged that funding was not getting through to hospitals.
“If we are allocated 600 million, we end up seeing only 100 million. This is the economic policy of this country.”
While Sri Lanka has a bloated public sector, Bandara said that Ayurvedic hospitals were critically understaffed to the point that it was almost impossible to function.
“This is because for 10 years no new recruitments have been made properly at the Ayurvedic hospitals. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is saying there are too many state workers. Do they think we are getting paid in dollars? We are only getting a very poor salary, compared to the rest of the Asian region.”
Similar protests were being carried out in front of Ayurveda hospitals in Kurunegala, Pallekele, Ratnapura, Kegalla, Meegoda and the Chamal Rajapaksha Ayurveda Hospital in Hambantota, Bandara said. (Colombo/Aug19/2022)