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Landmark hospital expansion unveiled in Sri Lanka: Hope for children battling cancer

May 14, Colombo (LNW): Death, as universally understood, is the closure of a lifecycle one brings into this world as they are born.

Medical science and modern technology help us live a healthy life till the inevitable closure to one’s lifecycle arrives. 

Though death awaits naturally for all of us in due time, sometimes one meets death tragically too soon, either naturally or otherwise.

Despite medical advancements achieved throughout the course of time, cancer still remains an unpredictable adversary, regardless of one’s health. Remission is hope, but recovery against the spread of a malignancy still remains elusive.

‘Apeksha Hospital,’ the sole medical facility available in Maharagama, Sri Lanka to treat cancer, expects to soon open a new building reserved for children who are battling cancer.

As unbelievable as it may sound, currently the Apeksha Hospital performs surgery for children inside an establishment made of three containers. A building, solely reserved for children, therefore, is currently being prepared to open.

Basnayake Nilame of Ruhunu Kataragama Devala Dishan Gunasekara

The new establishment reserved for children at the Apeksha Hospital is not just a facility of routine medical checkups and surgeries, but consists of a wide-range of medical specialties, conceived by the concept of the Basnayake Nilame of Ruhunu Kataragama Devala, Dishan Gunasekara and funded by the charity money received by the holy place.

 There is a machine called the Linear Accelerator at Apeksha Hospital. It is a machine developed for the treatment of children. I was watching TV one day, when I heard a news that the machine was out of order. The day after the news was broadcast, I went to meet the hospital director and inquired about the matter. Upon query, the hospital director said that the Ministry of Health promised that it would be modernised within five days. Dr. Wasantha Ratnayake, who was there at that time, suggested another idea, Gunasekara said.

The Basnayake Nilame went on: Dr. Wasantha Rathnayake told me that since the wards where children are being treated are very congested, the children and their parents face a lot of trouble, and it would be very valuable if a programme is implemented to prevent or curb the hassle. Then, I looked into this matter and learned the manner in which four children were kept inside a 10 x 12 feet room.”

Gunasekara revealed that it was this event alone that led him to conceiving the idea of establishing a whole new building reserved for children, after having talks with the doctor.

The new building is four-storied and is currently being constructed full throttle.

Approximately Rs. 110 million have been allocated for the procurement of materials and equipment necessary for the construction of this building, the Basnayake Nilame of Ruhunu Kataragama Devala, Dishan Gunasekara, told the reporters. 

Gunasekara further emphasised that the labour force required for the construction of this new building is being given by the Sri Lanka Air Force. The priority-construction accomplished so far would have been impossible, were it not for the support exerted by the Air Force Commander and other military personnel, he added. 

The Basnayake Nilame further noted that the foundation stone was laid in September 2023, and within a period of eight months, the building was constructed, pending the opening at the end of May this year.

In comparison to government hospitals, this facility offers a comprehensive array of amenities tailored to accommodate 76 children, each with dedicated beds. Spanning four floors, the building houses these 76 beds across two of its sections. State-of-the-art sanitary fixtures have been installed in both children’s and parents’ restroom facilities. Additionally, a specialised bed has been incorporated to accommodate the child’s mother, designed to seamlessly integrate with the child’s bed when necessary, without obstructing medical examinations conducted by doctors or nurses,” Gunasekara explained.

He added: Furthermore, a dedicated kitchen facility has been established within the premises. This kitchen enables both the child and their accompanying mother to prepare meals according to their preferences. Given that children arrive from various regions across the island for treatment, occasional visits by the child’s father or other relatives are accommodated, typically occurring once a month. Consequently, the mother or accompanying caregiver is empowered to store and prepare necessary food items as per the child’s requirements, ensuring accessibility and flexibility as needed.”

Gunasekara also revealed that the new building has a state-of-the-art and computarised laboratory, a library, and even a children’s playground.

With bonemarrow transplant, which is currently being performed only in private hospitals costing about Rs. 150,000 – 200,000, being available for four children in a row at four separate surgery rooms, this new facility revolutionises the cancer prevention movement in Sri Lanka, Gunasekara explained, adding, These treatments are provided for free, with the equipment, the doctors and other facilities being available, and the government, therefore, has to bear a minimum cost.

Consultant medical officers serving the Apeksha Hospital are already committed to providing a quality service at the new facility reserved for children. This new building, contrived with state-of-the-art technology, therefore, does not necessarily meet the requirement of enrolling new medical officers.

The inadequacy of essential facilities has posed challenges for children who need medical attention, their parents, as well as medical staff. Gunasekara expressed confidence that the inauguration of this new building will address these deficiencies comprehensively, alleviating the difficulties experienced by all stakeholders involved.

The Basnayake Nilame also disclosed that a foundation stone for the establishment of another building will be laid on the same day on which the new facility is declared open. This is mainly due to the recognition of the necessity to build another, given that out of 1,000 beds available for treatment at the Hospital, only five hundred beds are served modern medical facilities, with the rest being served poor facilities, he explained. 

The new project will aim for the establishment of a seven-storied building with state-of-the-art facilities, the Basnayake Nilame went on, adding that the foundation stone will be laid for the building on the same day on which the children’s facility is declared open.

Building of which the foundation stone will be laid on the same day on which the children’s medical facility is declared open

Gunasekara also revealed that the Sri Lanka Navy will deploy the necessary labour force for the construction of the new building. He thanked the Navy Commander and other officers for their relentless contribution for this project.

Funding

Basnayake Nilame of Ruhunu Kataragama Devala Dishan Gunasekara disclosed that they have opened a new bank account named “Kadira Devapeksha” solely for the purpose of funding the project. Currently, the project is being funded by the charity money received by the Kataragama Devala. He added that a large sum of money has already been collected for the project.

“Several generous individuals have made significant contributions, some donating millions. I extend an invitation to allocate a portion of your offerings to the ” Kadira Devapeksha” account, dedicated to the service of God Kataragama. Your contribution is viewed as a divine act of devotion. Furthermore, we extend our gratitude and special acknowledgment to the war heroes under the leadership of the Air Force Commander, who are actively participating in the construction of our current building project. We also express our appreciation to the war heroes, led by the Air Force Commander, who have pledged their assistance for future construction endeavours,” he said.

Sri Lanka Air Force Commander and Sri Lanka Navy Commander


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