(By Maheesha Mudugamuwa)
Despite several Covid-19 outbreak scares and the rapidly snowballing new wave, the Ministry of Health has not ordered a single ventilator since the first local patient was detected in Sri Lanka on 11 March 2020, The Sunday Morning learnt.
This was revealed to The Sunday Morning by a senior medical official attached to the Ministry of Health, who wished to remain anonymous, who added that the number of ventilators available in the country were not adequate to handle a spike in critical patients.
“We have only 630 ICU beds in the country for a population of around 23 million. And only 146 beds have been allocated for Covid management. This is a pathetic situation. No one’s questioning why the Ministry failed to order a few more, at least another 400 ventilators. We don’t have additional ventilators even available,” the senior official stressed.
As of Friday (30), the total number of positive cases detected in the Minuwangoda-Peliyagoda cluster hit 6,313. With the new development, Sri Lanka has confirmed 9,791 novel coronavirus infections to date. According to statistics, 4,142 of the confirmed patients have made complete recoveries from the virus.
The Epidemiology Unit says 5,630 active cases are still receiving medical treatment at selected hospitals across the island.
The Covid-19 death toll meanwhile went up to 19 last Tuesday (27), as three infected persons including a 19-year-old fell victim to the virus.
The senior medical official also alleged that the authorities were trying to pass the ball from one court to another by misleading the public.
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Criticising the lethargic approach taken by the Health Ministry to control the spreading of the virus, the official stressed that the virus could have been already controlled if the proper decisions had been taken on time.
“Many officials are afraid of taking decisions,” the official stressed.When contacted, Ministry of Health Medical Supplies Division (MSD) Deputy Director Dr. H.M.K. Wickramanayake confirmed to The Sunday Morning that the MSD did not order ventilators.
However, he said there was a programme launched by the Biomedical Institution with the funds of the World Bank (WB) during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic to order ventilators, but that he was not aware whether those stocks had arrived in the country.
Attempts to contact the Health Ministry Secretary and the Health Minister proved futile.However, Ministry of Health Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera stressed that the situation at present was under control. However, he failed to predict how long it would take to control the second wave of the virus.
“At present, we have controlled it but we can’t give predictions,” he stressed.When asked whether the number of ICU beds allocated is enough for the situation, Dr. Samaraweera said the ICU beds and ventilators available in the country were enough to handle the situation.
Meanwhile, Dr. Samaraweera said the authorities were still investigating how the virus entered the country but that the investigations had not yet uncovered concrete evidence to justify any of the allegations flying around.
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