Hospital Brought Home
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
The pandemic has now reached every district of the country. All walks of society are currently affected by COVID-19 and although the arrival of steady consignments of vaccines at our ports does sound somewhat comforting, it doesn’t take away the gravity of the reality that we have now surpassed the 80,000 mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The situation may appear bleaker in the Western Province where the most number of daily confirmed cases and deaths are reported but it is not as if the rural areas are totally risk free. Granted, population density and the need to interact with each other are considerably low in rural areas but it is not as if those areas are not without their own fair share of health issues.
Healthcare facilities in general, are a luxury for people living in out-of-reach rural areas. Some have to travel miles to get to the nearest hospital and in some areas the far-off hospital is the only facility they have to turn to in case of a medical emergency. No channelling services are available there and sometimes not even a private dispensary. With the pandemic limiting travel and resources, the people living in those areas, especially the elderly who are in need of routine checkups and constant medication have now essentially been thrown out of the frying pan into the fire.
Kanugahawewa village in Kebithigollewa, Anuradhapura is such a rural area where the residents were in need of medical attention but couldn’t really address their medical needs because of the ongoing pandemic. Identifying the need of the villagers the Seva Vanitha Unit of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) and Sri Lanka College of Military Medicine (SLCOMM) stepped forward to organise a medical outreach programme for the benefit of the residents of Kanugahawewa. The programme was conducted under the instructions and guidance of the Commander of the SLAF Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana and was held recently at Kanugahawewa Vidyalaya, Halmillawetiya. Apart from SLAF officers the programme was supported by the participation of medical professionals representing the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and the Sri Lanka Army (SLA).
The eye clinic of the programme saw over 500 spectacles distributed for free among deserving patients. A number of older patients who were in need of cataract surgery were identified at the programme and they will undergo the surgery in the near future, free of charge. The programme also consisted of a ‘Suwa Nari’ clinic dedicated especially for women where Pap smear samples were collected to be tested for identification of cervical cancer patients.
The programme was strengthened by a SLA mobile X-ray unit and a SLN mobile dental unit with their expert services. Furthermore, the SLAF contributed three mobile dental chairs and the Regional Director Health Services of Anuradhapura also provided a mobile pharmacy which dispensed required medical supplies free of charge.
The programme which was attended by over 900 residents in the area also consisted of a surgery clinic, VP Clinic, paediatric clinic, radiology clinic which included ultra sound scanning, dermatology clinic, laboratory testing, and screening for chronic kidney disease. At the end of the programme, a special educational session was also held for the benefit of the villagers.
The programme was attended by the Director of Health Services of the SLAF Air Vice Marshal Dr. L.R. Jayaweera, Director General - Health Services and the President of the SLCOMM Brigadier Dr. P.A.C. Fernando, Acting Director General - Health Services of the SLN Commodore Dr. P.J.B. Marambe, Base Commander of SLAF Vavuniya Base Air Commodore S.D.G.M. Silva and his wife the President of the Seva Vanitha Unit at Vavuniya Nirmala Perera, and Air Commodore Dr. N.D.B. Abeysekera.
The overall event was coordinated by Group Captain the Commanding Officer of the SLAF Hospital in Colombo Dr. P.A.V. Padmaperuma while Wing Commander S.C. Rajakaruna officiated as the Event Manager.
(Pix by Amitha Thennakoon)