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Sri Lankan professional honoured by Rotary International

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Sri Lankan business personality, Dr. Rohantha Athukorala has been honored among the six members across the world as ‘People of Action: Champions of Health by Rotary International’.

The award was in recognition of their proactive behaviour demonstrated to improve the foundation of good health at home and across the globe.

The work of these members proved especially challenging due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which tested their ‘service above self’ ethos, a communique from Rotary Head Quarters in Chicago, United States, said.

They will be recognized at the 2021 Global Convention for their outstanding contribution.

Commenting on the award Athukorala said: “Rotary is undoubtedly one of the strongest service organizations in Sri Lanka for project management. This includes interactors who work at the school end and Rotaractors in the University end of the postgraduate segments of Sri Lanka. This award is a win for Rotary/Rotaract and Interactors of Sri Lanka”.

Dr. Athukorala, a marketing professional, who has had a 17-year career with top British and American multinational, was also the Chairman of Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Sri Lanka Tourism which gave him the experience to conceptualize the project ‘Stop the Spread’ that was picked as a national project for the year 2020/21 by the Governor of Rotary Sri Lanka and Maldives, Ajith Weerasinghe.

The innovative project brought together 6,200 Interactors, 7,800 Rotaractors and 2,000 Rotarians under one theme driving multiple initiatives from attitude change communication to economic development projects during the pandemic. It was a unique project in our ecosystem that helped fight the Covid-19 deadly virus, Governor Weerasinghe said.

‘Stop the Spread’ used a two step communication model driven by the Interactors using the voice of 280 South Asian, Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games medallions in partnership with the National Olympic Committee in the first stage of the roll out. The campaign created awareness on the new normal behaviour required like wearing a mask, keeping social distance, body temperate watch and washing one’s hands in a somewhat controlled ecosystem, which supported the government’s efforts on how to contain the Covid-19 virus.

At present, more than 100,000 people have fallen prey to the virus with 625 deaths in Sri Lanka. The advocacy model must be taken to the next level in Sri Lanka and also extended to the global stage in the partnership with the respective sports bodies of their home country, says Weerasinghe, the Director/CEO of CIC, a a blue chip company in Sri Lanka.

Concurrent to the ‘Stop the Spread’ attitude changing concept, Rotary Sri Lanka mooted the idea of a certification program for businesses to bring to the DNA the new health protocols required in an organization.

The Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) developed the standards that led to the first-ever Certification protocols for Covid protection being launched in country. Rotary then diffused the idea and Certified almost 300 entities including schools, supermarkets, hotels, and top tea brands, global health and nutrition companies, International rubber organizations, the apparel sector and hotels which quantified the contribution of Rotary during the pandemic commented, Dr. Athukorala noted.

The award winning Sri Lankan professional has also served the United Nations (UNOPS) in his illustrious multinational career. He now heads a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) company for the South Asian Region.

“The Covid-19 spike in Sri Lanka is very worrying given the new strand we see in countries like India. We cannot afford another lockdown like last year. We have to stop the spread by regulating our behavior”, he stressed.



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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants

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More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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