Private healthcare sector suffers from shortage of trained manpower

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The dearth of trained medical practitioners and skilled nurses have hamstrung Sri Lanka’s private healthcare sector, which otherwise has a huge upside for faster takeoff with the rising middle-income class and corporate medical insurance schemes.

According to a report by ICRA Lanka Limited, a rating agency operating in Sri Lanka, the intense competition to attract and retain the best medical talent, which is in short supply, has caused significant cost escalations in the private Medicare sector during the last few years.

As a result, patients come seeking private Medicare are forced to spend more than its worth, as this higher cost gets billed to them. 

“Generally, the private healthcare sector has faced an acute shortage of trained medical practitioners,” ICRA Lanka said. 

It observed that the shortage in the industry is not limited to doctors but stretches beyond that to categories including trained nurses and other support staff. 

Specialized consultants in Sri Lanka opt for public sector practice for better exposure, opportunity for further training and the other benefits such as tax-free income, the rating agency said.

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“Therefore, these consultants typically practice in the private hospitals during their off-duty periods,” they added. In Sri Lanka, doctors seek special privileges over all other disciplines, sometimes taking the governments and the hapless patients hostage to win their demands.  Since the coronavirus entered the country last year, their prominence grew to exponential levels and they were often seen nudging the policymakers to restrict people’s economic and individual freedoms to contain the virus spread. 

While saving the lives of many, those actions pushed millions into poverty, forced thousands out of their businesses, worsened the country’s external sector crisis and devastated a working economy. 

A section of these doctors, who are a highly unionized lot, vehemently opposes the setting up private medical schools in the country, which can produce more doctors, who can spend more time with patients without rushing through their diagnose, enable better Medicare for people at reasonable prices at a higher convenience, due to their fear of losing their privileges.  

However, in respect of building skilled nurses, the private hospitals run their own nursing schools to ensure they have a continuous supply of nursing skills, which will also enable them to rationalize staff costs.

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