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Six Uva hospitals upgraded to meet Covid  challenge with local and international support



At a time of national emergency, in early June 2021, Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Upul Ranasinghe of the Bandarawela Hospital saw a rising wave of Covid patients in the Uva Province which the hospitals there were ill equipped to handle.

He reached out to Dr. Nalaka Mendis (Emeritus Professor, Colombo University) who immediately responded by calling on Dr. Naj Nagendran (Foundation of Goodness- USA) and gathering together a like-minded collective of humanitarians from Sri Lanka and overseas to respond to the challenge.

They included Mr. Manik Jayakumar (Q Trade Teas & Herbs), Mr. Felix Stephen ((Volunteers to Assist Children with Disabilities Limited), Mr. S. Skandakumar (Oru Paanai Trust- SL & USA) , Mr. Kushil Gunasekera (Foundation of Goodness) and Dr. Erosha Premaratne (Australia Sri Lanka Medical Aid Team) to raise urgently needed funds.

With the number of Covid related deaths rising by the day and patients sleeping on the floor of over-crowded wards and corridors outside, the initial focus of the group was to quickly upgrade Covid facilities at the Bandarawela Hospital where the bed capacity was increased from 50 to 300, Kushil Gunasekera of FOG said.

Having acted fast to complete the first phase, the group was overjoyed to hear Dr. Roshan Piyarathna, Covid physician at Bandarawela Hospital, say “Thanks to your donations the hospital was able to treat and discharge over 1,500 positive patients”.

Encouraged by this success and supported by those who rose to the occasion of enhancing Covid handling capacity at Bandarawela, more funds were raised to extend the same help to five more Uva hospitals – Haputale, Haldumulla, Diyatalawa, Koslanda and Welimada.

A total of over Rs. 26 million was made by this group to upgrade the hospital facilities in the Uva not only made a strong impact on the treatment delivered during the pandemic under life or death comditions, but will also hold the hospitals in good stead long after the pandemic is overcome.

Doctors at the Koslanda Hospital noted that this was a significant donation in the 100-year history of the hospital which had been struggling to provide the best possible care with insufficient equipment and technology. This was made possible by private individuals and organizations assisting disadvantaged rural communities to rise to the pandemic challenge.

This project was delivered so successfully because of the support from the College of Internal Medicine lead by President Dr. Harsha Sathischandra who took on the responsibility to disburse the funds and oversee the purchase of equipment and its Treasurer, Dr. Priyamali Jayasekera’s voluntary role, in spite of the heavy demands on her time by her official duties. The fund utilization and equipment purchases were completed with absolute transparency, Gunasekera said.

Dr. Janitha Tennekoon- Provincial Director, Dr.  Leelananda Gallage- DMO Bandarawela, and Dr. Roshan Piyarathna- physician in charge of the Covid unit, facilitated the process at the Bandarawela Hospital.

Dr. U M M Pushpalatha, MD, Welimada Hospital, Dr. Ranjith Amarakone – MS, Diyatalawa Hospital, Dr. Sanjeeva Samaraweera – DMO, Haputale Hospital, Dr. Vichithra Rathnayake – DMO, Haldumulla Hospital and Dr. Niroshan Thaminidu – DMO, Koslanda Hospital were invaluable in coordinating these efforts and successfully completing this endeavour.

We record with sadness and regret the passing away of one of our amiable donors Eddie Wijesuriya, during this exercise.

When difficulties arise, at most times there is a light at the end of the tunnel and one of the positive outcomes of this disastrous pandemic was that rural hospitals got upgraded unexpectedly, enhancing their facilities, which means that such hospitals especially in remote areas will be better equipped now to serve the needs of disadvantaged communities- a setback turned into a blessing, Gunasekera noted.

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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials



Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely



By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted



Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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