- To be launched at Kalutara General Hospital
- All citizens to get E-Health Cards within 6 months
By Nishel Fernando
The pilot project of the government’s E-Health Card initiative is to be launched at the Kalutara General Hospital on February 21 and following the success of the pilot project, all citizens would be issued an E-Health Card within six months, Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.
The minister said that the particular company that carried out the same programme in Andhra Pradesh in India has been awarded the contract to carry out this task in Sri Lanka. He noted that the company has successfully issued E-Health Cards for over 40 million people in Andhra Pradesh.
He revealed this while speaking at the launch of the first phase of the digitalisation project of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority, in Colombo, last Friday.
With the issuance of digital IDs, along with the E-Health Card, the hospitals would have a system with a centralized database that contains the medical history of every citizen of Sri Lanka.
Hence, the initiative will allow doctors from any part of the country to expedite the required treatments for patients.
However, Senaratne didn’t touch on the policies for storing and regulating e-health records that need be undertaken to protect the private data being exposed to outside parties.
He emphasised that the government has taken several measures in modernising the country’s public health sector by embracing digitalisation since he took office as the Health Minister, aiming to enhance the quality of services and to cut down the lengthy time period spent at public hospitals.
He noted that more than 500 hospitals in the country have been digitalised from Colombo to Kebithigollewa.
In terms of procuring medical devices and equipment, he stressed that he only granted permission to procure digital medical devices and equipment.
He pointed out that the hospitals were able to offer efficient services and cut their costs by shifting from analogue devices to digital. He illustrated that the digital MRI machine, which was introduced to the Accident Ward of the General Hospital led to cut down the waiting time for MRI scan from 57 minutes to three minutes, while the cost of Rs.12,900 of each MRI film was also saved. The minister also announced that a new programme would be launched with the assistance of the Belgian government to convert all analogue X-ray machines to digital in public hospitals.
Speaking of medicine shortages at public hospitals, he claimed that during the period of political crisis, not a single medicine was brought into the country, despite the repeated warnings of health officials on a potential crisis in public hospitals, due to the shortage of medicines.
“Despite the warnings of officials at the ministry, the authorities hadn’t taken any measures to address the looming shortage of medicines. When I retook the office as the minister, the first thing I did was to take measures to bring in cancer medicines by air,” he said.
He said that the potential crisis was averted due to the software developed by the ICTA to monitor the medicine stocks at public hospitals.
“If the software wasn’t there, it would have taken several months to calculate the shortage of medicines in public hospitals,” he added. Senaratne also remarked that it would at least take another two years for the health industry to recover from the adverse impacts created by the two months of political turmoil.