Karu’s airport ordeal over hospital discharge certificate


Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, now in Singapore for medical treatment, was held up in Negombo for 10 hours after Emirates Airlines declined to fly him on a confirmed ticket after he boarded the aircraft over the lack of a discharge certificate from the hospital where he was warded prior to the decision to fly him to Singapore

Jayasuriya eventually took the next flight to Singapore about 10 hours later.

His condition is satisfactory and he has been in contact with his staff in Colombo although there was no word on when he would return.

Well informed sources said that the speaker was hospitalized on July 9 but his doctors, after four days of treatment, advised that he fly to Singapore due to the lack of progress. The hospital he was in assisted in contacting the hospital in Singapore for further management of the case.

Seats were booked for travel for the speaker and his daughter, who is a medical professional with over 20 year experience and currently working in the World Health Organization, through Emirates Holidays on EK 348 due to depart Colombo at 3 pm on  July 12.

The need for a wheelchair was communicated and inquiries made from the airline on the availability of oxygen on the flight. The response was that oxygen is available in the emergency kit.

"This inquiry on oxygen was purely precautionary as he was given no oxygen during the hospital treatment," a well informed source explained.

This source said that the family was not told of the need for a medical clearance certificate by the discharging hospital when the booking was made.

Jayasuriya came up to the aircraft by wheelchair and then walked to his allocated seat in the first class cabin when an airline representative inquired about a medical clearance certificate.  The discharge summary from the hospital was given but not accepted.

A discussion ensued and the airline decided to contact their US Health Centre. Jayasuriya’s daughter said it was possible to get an immediate clearance certificate from the discharging hospital within 10 minutes which was not accepted by the Emirate’s official handling the matter.

This officer (who has no medical background ) then proceeded to fill in the questionnaire by himself using the discharge summary and asked  a few questions  from Jayasuriya’s daughter and then sent the information to their US office.

’’The Sri Lankan airport has a medical desk and a medical officer who could have easily issued the certificate. But this option was never considered. They then informed after about 20 minutes that their U.S. desk had ruled Jayasuriya was not fit to fly based on the form submitted by the officer of Emirates.

As the discussion was going on the luggage had already been offloaded by airline staff without any reference to the passengers.

Acknowledging the rules of the airline, well informed sources said the following questions remain:

(1) Why was the need for medical clearance never mentioned when the request for wheelchair and oxygen was made?

(2) Why was the offer of obtaining the required clearance by the discharging hospital refused by the officer especially when the process would have taken less than 10 minutes?

(3) Why was the medical officer at the airport not consulted to obtain the required clearance?

(4) How can an officer of the airline look at a medical discharge summary and fill in details of medical history? The form was never shown to the daughter who herself is a qualified medical officer.

(5) Why was the luggage offloaded before conclusive discussions were finalized?

Sources close to the family said that the incident considerably inconvenienced Jayasuriya as well as the Singapore hospital which had made all arrangements to receive him.

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