NHSL heart op­er­a­tions stopped, theatre con­di­tions dan­ger­ous

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ku­mu­dini Het­tiarachchi

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.

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