Sri Lanka has enormous potential for healthcare tourism — Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva

The plusses are substantial


Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva

 By Steve A. Morrell

Sri Lanka has tremendous potential as a key hub for healthcare tourism. The country’s medical services are now being improved to such an extent that it will not be necessary for anyone to seek medical attention overseas, says Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva, the newly-elected President of the College of Medical Administrators of Sri Lanka (CMASL).

"We are now in discussion on developing healthcare tourism. Foreigners can be encouraged to visit Sri Lanka for medical treatment at a level of one-hundredth the cost of such attention in other parts of the world, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island last week

He stressed that the plusses in healthcare tourism are substantial. More so, they would get medical attention at competitive charges, which are affordable. An influx of people seeking medical attention from abroad would be quite in keeping with our plans.

"Such possibilities are now being discussed and it would not be long these ideas will be implemented. Additionally, we are also in discussion with manufacturers of drugs and medicines to set up their production facilities in Sri Lanka", said De Silva, a senior medical administrator, who serves as the Additional Secretary (Medical Services) and Western Provincial Director of Health.

His induction as the CMASL chief will be held on May 2 at Hotel Kingsbury, with President Rajapaksa scheduled to attend as chief guest. Directors of all health facilities and senior officials, including the Health Secretary and the DGHS, are members of this organization.

"It would still be cheap in the long run that we encourage such curative action and after treatment, we give them a paid holiday for a week, and they would leave completely satisfied", he said. "Sri Lanka’s standing in health services in the region will open many doors".

Curative and preventive care and special treatment for serious illnesses, including AIDS, are now positioned that treatment is available in Sri Lanka. Nobody needs to travel to any international destination because all such care is available in the country, he explained. "This will be the future. Not in a distant context, but more of current standing".

Take the treatment for AIDS, as an example. The anti-rectal, viral treatment which is costly, is administered free of charge to these patients. Such treatment available in the country, and at no cost to patients, is a facility available exclusively to AIDS sufferers. They are assured confidentiality adding credible concern that they would not be shunned socially, De Silva underscored.

Q: We have interviewed doctors from Singapore, for instance, and it was their contention that Sri Lankan medical practitioners are professionally competent to care for the sick, but what was lacking was modern medical equipment. Do you agree’?

A: Equipment and machines are aspects we have to deal with, but what we have to be concerned about is inter-personal skills. Courtesy to patients, spend some time with them. Our doctors have improved. We have come forward in these practices, but we have quite a way go.

Q: Doctors are professionally qualified and capable. They are courteous. That can be accepted. But, there are common complaints that nurses are rude and they don’t care to make patients comfortable. Could this be a common factor that prevails in most government hospitals?

A: We have to improve their social and PR skills. I have to accept that. But, it does not mean we are doing nothing. They are effectively trained and those who pass the nursing qualifications are in a total atmosphere of patient caring.

Are you aware that OPD treatment is now available until 8 pm daily? This aspect of medical care has been an additional intervention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who brought about such attention to treatment.

Q: Annual allocations for the government health sector have increased tremendously.

A: Yes, the budgetary allocations for 2014 saw a whopping Rs. 176 billion for health services. Previously, allocations were restricted to around Rs. 60 billion. However, with these substantial funds we can ensure that results would not be inconsiderable. Thanks to the vision of the President and Ministerial intervention, plans to achieve hub status for Sri Lanka are bearing fruit.

Are you aware that each patient in intensive care costs us Rs. 100,000 per day? The treatment is administered absolutely free. There is a doctor and six nurses to care for these patients 24 hours of the day. It happens around the clock.

De Silva has achieved academic excellence with a MBBS, MSC and a post graduate doctorate in medical administration (PhD) from the Colombo University. In addition, he has a MSc in health economics from the prestigious London School of Economics and a diploma from the London school of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

He has also served as a WHO expert on quality in health care for the Ireland College of Surgeons and held the Chairmanship of WHO consultative meetings of the South East Asian region for achieving universal healthcare in New Delhi

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