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COVID-19 has stressed healthcare systems across the globe. We present the experience of an intern medical officer working in a tertiary care hospital during the first wave of the pandemic in Sri Lanka. Her narrative describes how the stress of the pandemic brought into sharp focus the strengths and weaknesses in the health system. We suggest some strategies to improve our health services as the world faces the second wave and an uncertain future. These include structural changes in healthcaredoi:10.1136/medhum-2020-012109 pmid:33972386 fatcat:4efhjstmc5cwjhddv4mf4cmcve