NHSL heart operations stopped, theatre conditions dangerous
All heart operations at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, except some emergency cases, came to a halt on Friday, December 1.
The NHSL’s five cardiothoracic surgeons put down their scalpels as the conditions in the cardiothoracic operating theatres (OTs) are deemed to be unsuitable for open heart surgery, with fears of patients acquiring infections which, in turn, would lead to high morbidity (illness) and high mortality (death), the Sunday Times learns.
The Health Ministry, meanwhile, has not responded to the situation in any concrete manner, sources said. The Sunday Times in a comprehensive report headlined ‘Heart operations may be suspended from Friday; NHSL theatres contaminated or under repairs’ last Sunday (November 26) revealed the deplorable state of the four cardiothoracic OTs of the NHSL, the premier heart centre of the country and the pathetic plight of adult patients.
“The patients are dying and the Health Ministry does not seem to care,” said another source, explaining that the
longer a patient had to await open heart surgery, the weaker he or she would get and more prone to illness. Some of the emergency heart surgeries are being performed at an OT of the Neurotrauma Unit which has been loaned to the cardiothoracic surgeons, it is learnt.
Two of the cardiothoracic OTs at the Cardiology Unit of the NHSL have been under repair since April last year. Sources said the State Development and Construction Corporation (SD&CC) has indicated that the earliest when it could conclude the repairs would be at the end of next month. The two other cardiothoracic OTs, in the NHSL’s main building complex, are in no condition for open- heart surgeries, with contamination levels high, the sources added. Heart disease, meanwhile, is the No. 1 killer across the world including Sri Lanka. Other sources queried as to why plans for a National Heart Centre have been shelved.
People in the know say that a 70-perch block of land behind the Cardiology Unit on Kynsey Road had been donated to the NHSL for this centre but little or nothing has happened so far.
The project proposal for the state-of-the-art National Heart Centre which would have 8 OTs and 4 catheterization laboratories had been drawn up and the design completed way back in 2007. It is estimated to cost Rs. 3 billion, the Sunday Times understands. The government’s priorities for the NHSL seem to be clear – first it will construct the Outpatients Department ( OPD), then the General Surgical Building and only after that will it consider the National Heart Centre, even though the treatment and management of heart disease should be a priority, a source said, adding that the rich and powerful of course could seek treatment abroad but the poor people of Sri Lanka had to depend solely on the much- touted free health system.
Another source said in disgust that the government seems to be waiting for a foreign donor without channelling some of the money being wasted by politicians on unnecessary projects, for this vital National Heart Centre.
“In our country, heart patients dependent on the state health system seem to be viewed as ‘people of a lesser god’ by those in authority,” the source added.