Lack of funds halts heart surgery at Sri J’pura

Director pooh-poohs unionists’ claim

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

Lack of funds has brought heart surgeries to a halt at the Sri Jayewardenepura hospital. This has been the case since April this year, according to hospital sources.

The cardio thoracic unit of the hospital is said to have incurred a loss of Rs.100 million last year as the Health ministry provided only Rs. 500 million for the bypass operations performed there. The Ministry owed the hospital a further Rs. 500 million, sources said.

The actual figures could be much higher as those estimated figures had been calculated by a novice accountant and his calculations were questionable, a trade unionist told The Island.

As a result, life-saving operations on heart patients, referred by the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) to the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital, have come to a complete standstill though the hospital is equipped with a state-of-the-art cardio-thoracic surgery unit.

The hospital administration seemed to be on the verge of closing down the unit, source said. Around 10,000 heart patients advised to undergo heart surgery, especially bypass surgery, were currently under treatment at five state-run hospitals, including Sri Jayewardenepura.

Asked for comment, JVP affiliated All Ceylon Health Services Union (ACHSU) General Secretary Gamini Kumarasinghe alleged. He attributed the situation to what he called administrative failure.

Kumarasinghe said that the lives of the heart patients were in jeopardy as the Jayewardenepura hospital had stopped surgery. When an operation on a heart patient was performed at the Jayewardenepura hospital it had to be paid for. The NHSL was referring heart patients to the hospital regularly, but due to some unknown reasons the hospital did not want to accept those referred by the NHSL. About four weeks ago the NHSL had referred a number of patients to the hospital, but no operations were performed. There were only 13 cardio thoracic surgeons in the country for 10,000 patients, Kumarasinghe said.

When contacted, Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital Director Dr.S.Gamage said that as far as he was aware, heart patients referred to it by the NHSL were being operated on. The hospital had never rejected any referral. "What has happened is that the Sri Jayewardenepura hospital owed Rs. 373 million to the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) for drugs purchased. The Health Ministry owes about Rs.500 million for the surgeries performed. The hospital is in the process of deducting money from the overdue account of the Ministry.

When asked whether the thoracic unit would be closed, Dr. Gamage said that not a single unit of the hospital would be closed.

MSD Director Dr. Kamal Jayasinghe, contacted for comment, said the Sri Jayewardenepura hospital owed his institution about Rs. 373 million for drugs.

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