Them burning medical waste outside the national hospital
Sri Lanka has free public health care but a lot of people don’t use it. I have dealt with public health care only briefly. My girlfriend once went and spent about 6 hours over two days just to see a doctor for the kid. I think it’s the time issue that makes people avoid it, I dunno. Luckily I’ve avoided the hospital except for a brief bout with dengue/viral fever, and that under company health care. Recently, however, I checked the girlfriend’s kid into Lanka Hospitals for observation and it was really expensive. I wonder how the system sustains.
For one night of observation, two bottles of saline and 10 minutes with a neurosurgeon (consultation) the bill was Rs. 22,000. The room itself was Rs. 6,800 per night, an option we only chose because they said those were the only rooms they had (something I somewhat doubt). For us it was a case of not care but precaution as the kid had got a bad concussion and was throwing up almost constantly. So, worth it, but I can’t imagine what happens if you’re hospitalized for more than a day.
A friend was recently in for three days and their insurance only covered I think 3/4 or 2/3 of the bill (around 60k). In the past I’ve seen people essentially bankrupted by medical bills, or taking out donations from friends or on the streets. When you’re dealing with medical care for yourself or a kid the feeling is that it should be free. As Andrew Sullivan says:
Remember all those old black and white movies where you saw scenes in which the father of a sick child simply says “we don’t have the money for the operation.” And little Johnny dies. How far away that passive stoicism now seems. Within a few decades, what was once taken as fate is now rejected as a moral obscenity. Because, given what we have achieved in those decades, it is a moral obscenity. We are all physical beings and we are never as equal as when we face sickness and mortality.
Of course, healthcare is actually limited and it does need to be rationed. Hence you get a proliferation of private hospitals in Sri Lanka (a land of public healthcare) and even private hospitals owned by the government (Lanka Hospitals).
Yet, I only know this issue from the periphery. I see that people wait in public hospitals, but I also know living people who have gotten free heart surgery and full internal fix ups there. I also know that I never go to public hospitals, for reasons I don’t quite understand but which seem obvious at times of emergency.
I’m not saying that healthcare in Sri Lanka is broken, but it certainly isn’t fixed.