Health care in Sri Lanka

An overview of the system

Health care in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s health sector performs surprisingly well compared to other lower-middle-income economies. Nevertheless you should not expect Western standards throughout the country.

Although Sri Lanka suffered from a civil war lasting more than 25 years, the government has managed to install a working health care system. The life expectancy recently rose to an average of 72.5 years and only 0.3% of the population fell below the poverty line because of debts connected to illness.

The health sector is almost equally divided into public and private. The former is under responsibility of the government and its local representatives. It is financed through general revenue taxation. In 2005 the spending was 4.2% of the country’s GDP. The latter is mainly financed through out-of-pocket spendings, private insurances and direct payments by enterprises.

The public health sector is accessible to everyone in Sri Lanka and almost every treatment is free of charge. The number and density of public hospitals is very good but the quality may vary a lot. Wealthier people tend to go to private hospitals but the government is trying to foster harmonic growth between the two sectors.

If you look at government spending you can see the state constantly spent more money on the poorest quintile than for the richest quintile. An indicator that the richer tend to pay for their treatment themselves. Since the government spending budget is not really increasing and richer people are turning to the private sector, the public sector may be destabilized in the future.

In general, treatments are divided into allopathic (Western), ayurvedic, siddha-ayurvedic, homeopathy and acupuncture streams. Nevertheless most of the people attend Western practitioners.
After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the country that suffered most from the 2004 tsunami. Besides more than 35,000 people losing their lives in this tragedy, more than 80 health institutions were damaged or completely destroyed. The health sector still suffers from that catastrophe.

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