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President visits biggest Emergency Facility for Covid patients at Seeduwa

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa inspected the Army improvised new Intermediate Care Centre (ICC) cum Hospital with 1,200 beds for Covid-19 patients at Seeduwa on Tuesday.

The President visited this biggest Emergency Facility at the invitation of General Shavendra Silva, Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO), Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army.

With three large wards, the facility was collectively improvised in less than 10 days by several Army regiments, including differently-able war heroes, as a result of the generosity of Ashroff Omar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Brandix Group, who gave the premises to augment efforts to treat Covid patients.

The project, backed by the Army Seva Vanitha Unit (ASVU), is equipped with all vital health facilities, such as a state-of-the-art emergency treatment unit, isolation sections, resuscitation units, ICU, medical stores etc.

It is also the first of its kind in Sri Lanka that came up within such a short time span on an initiative taken by the Head of NOCPCO to face any contingency in the wake of the third Covid-19 wave in the country.

President Rajapaksa was received on arrival at the facility by the architect of the project, General Shavendra Silva. Accompanied by Defence Secretary, General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Health Secretary, Major General (Retd) Sanjeewa Munasinghe and Director-General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena inspected the different sections in the new care centre.

The President also shared his thoughts with medical experts present at the venue and inquired into certain aspects before he leaving the premises.

COVID-19 patients who cannot be practically taken care at home, but who do not show serious symptoms are to be treated in this facility to enable medical staff to treat patients in critical condition. Medical services at the facility will be provided jointly by the Ministry of Health and Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps.

“In keeping with this emergency need, the Army immediately initiated an island-wide search for suitable locations and buildings. Security Forces at all regional levels were busy improvising new places to serve as Intermediate Care Centres or Hospitals for Covid-19 treatment as existing capacities in government hospitals are already overwhelmed”, General Shavendra Silva told the media.

“We expect to open the state-of-the-art care centre shortly in Seeduwa with the objective of giving the best emergency healthcare to affected Sri Lankans free of charge”, he added.

Mrs. Chithrani Gunarathne, Chairperson, MoD Seva Vanitha Unit, Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, President, Army Seva Vanitha Unit, Ashroff Omar, CEO, Brandix Group, Major General Udaya Perera (Retd) and Group Head, Administration, Brandix Group, were also present.



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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers

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Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb

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One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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