Lawmakers in Sri Lanka are currently engaged in a debate regarding the fate of the country’s health minister. The minister is being scrutinized for allegedly failing to ensure an adequate supply of essential drugs and laboratory equipment, which some argue has resulted in preventable deaths in hospitals. Sri Lanka provides free healthcare through state-run hospitals, but they have been facing shortages of medicines and health workers, particularly doctors, due to the economic crisis caused by the government’s suspension of foreign loan repayments.
Opposition lawmakers have presented a no-confidence motion, blaming Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella for the deterioration of the health sector. They argue that his failure to fulfill his responsibilities has led to the loss of lives. Rambukwella has denied these allegations.
Incidents of patient deaths and impairments, including cases of blindness, have occurred in recent months within state-run hospitals. These cases are currently being investigated by the Health Ministry. Relatives of the victims, trade unions, activists, and opposition lawmakers claim that the use of low-quality drugs has resulted in inadequate patient care.
A vote on the motion will be held in the 225-member house on Friday. Sri Lanka’s financial troubles have been caused by a shortage of foreign currency, excessive government borrowing, and the central bank’s efforts to stabilize the Sri Lankan rupee with limited foreign reserves. The country’s total debt exceeds $83 billion, of which $41.5 billion is foreign debt. Sri Lanka has secured a $3 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and is working on restructuring its domestic and foreign debts.
The economic crisis has caused severe food, medicine, fuel, cooking gas, and electricity shortages, leading to large-scale street protests that resulted in the resignation of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In the midst of the crisis, thousands of Sri Lankans have emigrated in search of higher-paying jobs abroad, including approximately 1,500 doctors within the past year, according to a union.