SL on brink of medical crisis from acute shortage of specialists

23 June 2023 07:21 am – 0      – 157

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-Only 2,007 specialists at present despite projected number of 4,299

-350 specialists have migrated so far

-300 more specialists to retire this year

-Delay in annual transfer list

-Specialists urged to stay as millions deprived of medical help

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a massive shortage of medical specialists, with medical professionals warning of a serious threat to the country’s health sector, the Daily Mirror exclusively learns.

With a significant number of medical specialists choosing to migrate, and some specialists being absorbed to foreign universities, experts predict more trouble for Sri Lanka’s ailing health sector. Meanwhile, the recently revised retirement age of doctors by the age 60, has also contributed to the issue.

The Ministry of Health has estimated that the country will require 4,299 medical specialists by the year 2024 to ensure continued medical services to the general population. According to the list of transfers, there are 750 vacancies to be urgently filled by this year including cardiologists, microbiologists, dermatologists, emergency physicians, anaesthetists and pathologists. Professionals in the field have long warned that the number of required medical specialists could exceed the 1,000 mark by next year, if authorities failed to act promptly.

However, Sri Lanka currently has only around 2,007 specialists, a number which many experts say is inadequate to serve the general population’s medical needs. Adding to the issue is the imminent retirement of some 300 medical specialists aged between 60 to 63 by the end of this year, including experts like Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Dr. Lakkumar Fernando, Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Dr. Ananda Lamahewage and Dr. Nishshanka Jayawardena.

Meanwhile, nine out of 18 heart surgeons in the country are likely to leave the service, risking the closure of several heart surgery units in the country. These include some specialized units in Colombo, Galle, and Jaffna, risking the lives of thousands of people who are on the waiting list for heart surgeries. Furthermore, 375 medical specialists have migrated for either professional or personal reasons, while others have been absorbed into universities.

Furthermore, the Health Ministry is accused to have continuously delayed to publish the transfer list.

It is in this context that 176 specialist doctors have filed a petition in the Court of Appeal saying that it is unfair to change the retirement age privilege from 60 to 63. Health authorities are currently deliberating if a flexible work arrangement could be given in the case of some experts. However, it was reported that the affected experts were not in agreement with this solution, urging the retirement age be revised to 63.

In this context, the authorities have verbally requested about 50 specialist doctors over the age of 63 to continue working on a temporary contract basis. (Sheain Fernandopulle)



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