Eleven heart patients die in 6 weeks after surgery at SJH
Faulty air conditioning blamed for theatre contamination

By Lal Gunasekera

Eleven patients suffering from heart ailments have died following surgery at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital for the past six weeks. They died in wards while recuperating.

The Island learns that the airconditioners in the separate theatre, where heart operations are performed, are not suitable for operating theatres. Two Cardiologists had taken up the matter, sources said.

The Director of SJH Dr. L. De Lanerolle told The Island that 65 open heart surgeries had been performed between Aug. 1 and Oct. 15 and there had been ten deaths. He said that two patients had died due to infections and six due to various other complications.

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena is on an overseas visit. Deputy Health Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, contacted for comment, said he was unaware of the deaths but assured he would make inquiries.

Micro Biologist Dr. Chithranga Kariyawasam has submitted a report that there is a high level of bacterial contamination in the operating theatre complex which consists of eight theatres due to the malfunctioning of the 'chillers' as exclusively reported in The Island on Monday. Sources said some doctors had refused to perform surgical operations at SJH. "They have asked patients to enter private hospitals," a hospital official said.

SJH sources said that the monthly meeting of the Board of Management on Friday (Oct. 15) had been stormy. A government appointed member had said that it was a grave situation and the airconditioning system had to be attended to urgently.

This Board member demanded that the management take immediate action to install 10 to 15 split type modern airconditioners, which would cost less than Rs. 2 million. He asked why that had not been done without waiting for Board approval. He had even summoned and questioned the Accountant, who was told that it was the duty of the hospital to protect the poor patients who came there for treatment.

The Chairman of the Board at SJH N. W. E. Wijewantha said that there was a problem with the 'chillers', but prompt action had been taken to install new airconditioners following a proposal by a board member on Friday. He said that the airconditioners needed repairs they would be replaced.

Wijewantha said that he was unaware that consultants had refused to perform operations at the SJH.

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