By Sanka Dassanayake –
In the climax of catastrophes in the health service due to non-availability of nearly 300 essential medicines in the country, Ministry of Health has initiated another white elephant project.
The project of drones to transport essential medicines and blood is an extremely costly project which the government has already initiated. Zipline, the US company to which the project is granted has already advertised for recruiting flight operators for Sri Lanka drone delivery.
Drones are used in countries such as Haiti, to deliver food aid and medical supplies to areas hit by disaster. For countries with poor transportation facilities and natural barriers this technology might be useful. In Rwanda drones are used for emergency blood transport by the same US company, apparently which the ministry high officials have visited for supervision.
Unlike in other countries, which the drones are in use, Sri Lanka has an established road and transportation system without natural barriers, to transport all essential medicines and blood. Sri Lanka’s blood transfusion service has located over hundred blood banks across the country. Since this service is coordinated island wide, blood stocks are managed in common pool nationally. The system is structured to ensure the blood availability across the country, hence drone delivery project will only be a white elephant for the country.
It is not possible to replace the existing blood banks from this project as there has to be a well-equipped blood bank to test the blood for compatibility for the patient before any blood transfusion. The needs assessment of this project appears to be a failure.
If such a system is required for transporting essential items, the technology is still available within the country. Drones are being manufactured in the University of Moratuwa. They also have given the technology for overseas. Adopting this technology from the University of Moratuwa would have at least made some financial sense, withstanding the senselessness of the concept of using drones for drug transportation in a country like Sri Lanka.
In the out of stock situation of essential medicines this project of fast delivery system is a yarn. It is quite surprising why the Government Medical Officers’ Association acts blind to this drone project, especially in the contest of overlooking the threat to the civil security which the project could be bring in.