National Hospital notches 150 years


By Randima Attygalle

"We are not only the heart of the health care system in the country but served as a ‘clinical Force’ during the 30-year war. Today we celebrate all those who tirelessly labored to save countless lives," Director, National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), Dr. Anil Jasinghe said on Friday at a ceremony marking 150 years of the NHSL.

President Maithripala Sirisena attended this celebration which concluded a series of events that commenced in March last year. Also present was a large gathering of diverse stakeholders associated with the NHSL.

To commemorate the landmark anniversary of this hub of the country’s healthcare system, several schemes in collaboration with various partners committed to promoting health care were launched. They included a ‘Facelift Program’ which facilitated the renovation of several hospital buildings, many still bearing the stamp of colonial architectural like the Victoria Memorial Building. Modification of E.W. Perera Mawatha which runs parallel to the Hospital Square and launching of a new Information Centre with the hotline ‘1959’ are notable among them.

The upgrading of the official website of the NHSL, making it user-friendly, has been a progressive move. It is now equipped with all the information any visitor to the website would need. The celebratory lottery launched last year had also raised three million rupees, noted the Director.

Through several MOUs that have been signed, a battery-operated shuttle car pool for inter-unit patient transportation and a special shuttle bus service connecting Hospital Square and Railway stations in Fort and Maradana are also to be launched shortly.

The Colombo General Hospital, now National Hospital of Sri Lanka, succeeded the Pettah Hospital in 1864 as a means of expanding residential health care to citizens. The OPD facility was setup in 1910. Today the complex sprawls over 32 acres, with a bed strength of 3,404 and over 7,000 health staff.

NHSL has emerged the only institution in South East Asia which is managed by a single administration service. With 19 well-equipped surgical theatres and 23 intensive care units, the hospital handles more than 5,000 major and minor surgeries per month. It also hosts country’s one and only Neuro Trauma Centre providing round-the-clock service.

The Accident and Trauma Unit in the hospital is the largest of its kind in the country. It did a yeoman service during the 30 years of war. Over two million out patients receive treatment per year. NHSL also features several medical sub specialties, a vast majority of them being confined to this hospital. While providing secondary and tertiary care, the hospital also offers clinical training to medical personnel.

The annual state health budget allocation of Rs. 6 billion is to be increased at least by Rs. 1 billion by the end of this year, assured Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine who was also present at this occasion. Countries such as the USA and China have already pledged their support in this regard.

"Being a trade union activist myself, I welcome open dialogues with such activists in the health care sector," said the minister who appealed to the authorities to overcome divisions and come forward to perform liver transplants which is a dire need at present.

"Today we perform all kinds of transplants on par with global standards. I don’t think there is any other nation which performs all kinds of such surgeries totally free of charge and I appeal to relevant authorities to heed the call for liver transplants as well, especially when non-alcoholic cirrhosis is on the rise."

A commemorative compilation on NHSL’s 150 year journey, with photographs recording its evolution, was presented to the President and Minister of Health by the NHSL Director. Releasing of a first day cover and a stamp and launching of an anthem in honor of NHSL were among the other highlights of the celebrations.

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