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25th April 1999

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How Kandy hospital doctors do by-pass hospital developmet

When doctors become builders

When a group of doctors and interested professionals wanted to revamp the Kandy hospital and update it to modern standards, they didn't wait for the government to dole out funds. They by- passed the bureaucracy, went looking for the funds, found them, and put up the building on their own. So who says government doctors are clock watchers compared to the private practitioners?

The Kandy hospital project is one that relies entirely on human ingenuity for funds; it may therefore have run into some amount of criticism, but the results are entirely indubitable. The new four story building which houses the kidney dialysis unit, the Army Unit and the paediatric unit and the OPD is a classic example of what funds could do when the doctors themselves make the effort.

The building came up in a matter of thirteen months; it is now a solid structure that has to be furnished with the relevant medical apparatus, and given finishing touches such as the flooring and the ceilings.

It's Dr. Beligaswatte's relentless push to get private donors that's uncanny.

The mix is eclectic; there are businessmen, former patients who have donated sometimes as little as 60 rupees, and NGO personnel both from here and abroad who have sometimes donated without fanfare or flourish.

It is a fact that the state health department contribution to the Kandy hospital project and the new four-storey building is only a sum of ten million rupees,.

Rs 10 million has come from public contributions while Ceylinco and Seylan have contributed a sum of fifteen million rupees.

Dr. Beligaswatte and his Kandy hospital development team have adopted a strategy of one day at a time, it seems, in order to complete the project. They don't now how the funds will come or from where, but they are confident that the equipment for the new building will come their way one way or the other.

Pre fabricated operating theatres are already on the way. The kidney transplant unit will have assembly line efficiency about it. In one room, the old kidney will be removed; the patient will then be removed to the next operating theatre to get his replacement.

"The forgotten fact is that the Kandy hospital provides treatment for persons from five provinces,'' says Dr. Beligaswatte.

But, facilities for development of this vital medical centre are not exactly forthcoming, and the doctors have hence turned entrepreneurs.

There is no other way to say this. The entrepreneurial skills of doctors turned fund raisers and construction supervisors is, to say the least, novel and endearing. Dr. Beligaswatte puts on a hard- hat, and regularly inspects the progress of the new building. He doesn't quite like the way the ceiling has been done. Ridges have been left visible after the panelling had been completed. " We told them we are not satisfied; they have now promised to break up parts of the ceiling and reconstruct.'' Dr. Beligaswatte's office in the Kandy Hospital premises is converted to operations headquarters. It has the blueprints and plans for the entire future of the Kandy hospital infrastructure, and if this isn't ambitious, what would be? The four storey new building appears to be a foretaste of things to come : on the cards are other development units including dining areas for the hospital staff, and other treatment facilities such as a cancer hospital . Among the new units that have already come up with public contributions are the 165 bed eye unit, the surgical intensive care unit, emergency treatment and dialysis unit, all established through donations. The largely state aided cardio thoracic unit which is now coming up relatively very slowly with public funds, will provide medical and surgical treatment, including coronary by - pass surgery for patients with heart ailments.

The new four storey complex was built in a matter of thirteen months, largely from public funds, but also with contributions from the Ministry of Defence which contributed Rs 30, million. There was 50 million from the President's Fund, 50 million from Ceylinco- Seylan, 3 million from the National Development Fund and the Ministry of Health. The architecture and the engineering for the project was carried out free of charge by professionals who were keen on providing a free service for a worthy effort. A further Rs 100 million is needed now to equip the new four storey building and funds have been coming in impressive ways; a government clerk who was treated at the hospital, on discharge, donated her husband's entire commuted pension amounting on close to a lakh of rupees for the Kandy hospital fund.

It is hard not to be impressed by a project, smack inside a state enclave, which has not only come up within thirteen months, but has also been constructed according to a scrupulous plan.

For instance, an ambulance can enter any of the four stories of the new hospital directly from the street, as the street meets each of the floors at separate elevations. Such innovations are not just novel; they are going to be tremendously useful. State cooperation , uncannily, for doctors who want to improve their surroundings and the buildings they work in may actually be a way of providing more fetters to surmount. For example, when Dr. Beligaswatte refurbished and repaired an old van to deliver dead bodies from the hospital to the mortuary, he was queried by the audit. "Even in Colombo, they transport bodies by trolley" he was told.

But, this was not Colombo. Labourers had to previously negotiate steep hills to deliver bodies to the mortuary. Bodies have fallen from the trolley in the process.

" By providing a van, I have simply therefore attempted to give some dignity to the dead, and to the labourer,'' Dr. Beligaswatte told the audit. Today, hospital labourers sit down for a meal for the first time due to dining facilities being provided; earlier they ate out of packets seated by the side of corridors.

But Dr. Beligaswatte has been queried for everything from landscaping the premises, to establishing a fund from rents paid to the hospital by three wheeler drivers. These funds, the auditors said, had to go to the consolidated fund, and not to the hospital fund.

"I scrapped the fund, I don't want to collect monies to enrich an unknown third party," he said. But, the efforts of the kandy hospital development fund are palpable, they seem to have palpable results,. There have been no strikes in the Kandy hospital in the recent past. The spirit of and the zeal at the top is infectious.

When doctors wear hard hats and supervise infrastructure construction, it's hard for the hospital labourers and the nursing staff not to take note and buckle down to better work. Now, it's onto the task of collecting another 100 million. Any givers?

The building

The new unit: 4 stories, 93 sq feet.

Ground and first floor: children's surgical unit.

Number of children's beds : 134

Number of operating theatres: 2

Other facilities: intensive care unit. Out patients unit, Children's play areas.

Second floor: nephrology and kidney transplant unit

18 haemodyalysis units

12 peritoneal dialysis beds

2 operating theatres

1 intensive care unit

ward beds 100 3rd floor: ward facilities for armed forces and police personnel.


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