go away, come again another day!
Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, the only tertiary
care institution in the south, is allegedly suffering from heart
trouble, with many patients needing urgent attention being turned
away at the once-a-week clinic.
|Karapitiya Hospital: Needs urgent treatment
Pix by Sanjeewa Wijeweera
Take Wednesday, June 14, the cardiology clinic
day. Many of the patients who had queued up from early morning and
come long distances had been told in no uncertain terms that only
30 new patients would be seen by the cardiologist that day, The
Sunday Times learnt.
When 10-year-old Chamila Ruwan Kumari, accompanied
by her mother A. Banduwathie, arrived at the Karapitiya Hospital
because the little girl had a papuwe gasmak (palpitations), the
paediatrician had immediately directed her to the cardiology clinic.
|Poor victims: Chamila
The mother and child who had come from remote Urubokke
off Deniyaya, spending about Rs. 500 and leaving home at the crack
of dawn, had been turned away from the cardiology clinic with the
excuse that the quota for the day was over and asked to come for
an echocardiogram on June 20. What is the plight of Chamila, whose
parents are eking out a living by doing odd-jobs, if she has to
make many trips to Karapitiya?
Ironically, The Sunday Times understands that
the only hospital to have a cath lab outside Colombo is Karapitiya,
with the one at Kandy not functioning.
Chamila’s case is not an isolated one. S.W.
Gunasekera, 57, a CTB labourer from Thihagoda in Matara who had
severe chest pain on May 26 while at work was immediately rushed
to the Karapitiya Hospital and was in the Intensive Care Unit. He
was discharged on June 1 from hospital but directed to come on June
14 to the cardiology clinic. He too being considered an aluth ledek
(new patient) was turned away with the same excuse – only
30 will be seen and he was not one of them.
A pain in the chest sent D. Nandawathie, 53, from
Boossa to the Karapitiya OPD, where she was immediately ordered
an ECG, followed by instructions to rush to the cardiology clinic.
“Thundu deela ivarai,” she was told she says explaining
that the clinic staff informed her that the numbers were over and
she should come back the following week.
It was a similar problem for K.G. Sugathadasa,
55, from Hiyare in Akmeemana, who was told very clearly that his
“ECG was honda ne” (ECG was not good) and sent to the
cardiology clinic, only to be told that he needs to come the following
When The Sunday Times raised these concerns with
both the Karapitiya Hospital Director Dr. Prasad Wijewickrema and
Deputy Director Dr. Shelton Perera, the answer was that there was
an issue with regard to the demarcation of positions between the
two cardiologists based at Karapitiya, with the matter being taken
up not only with the Public Services Commission and the Administrative
Appeals Tribunal but also in the Court of Appeal.
“We have written to the Health Ministry
seeking clarification on the matter,” said Dr. Perera, however,
adding that the overcrowding at the cardiology clinic was due to
the lack of a proper referral system in the country. “Some
patients do not need to come to the clinic. Others can seek treatment
at hospitals like Matara where there is a cardiologist,” he
When asked whether there was a waiting list for
such tests as angiograms at the cath lab and also others such as
echocardiograms, Dr. Perera checked and replied in the negative.
Lamented Dr. Wijewickrema, “As there is
no proper referral system, most people by-pass other hospitals and
seek attention at Karapitiya. So there is overcrowding and Karapitiya
can’t cope with the work. In addition, we also have inadequate
facilities in the cardiology unit. The bed strength is not enough
and there is no space to develop the unit.”
However, The Sunday Times understands that there
is no waiting list for tests because patients are turned away and
told to come another day, causing much inconvenience to them. “When
we are referred to the clinic, we are not examined by the cardiologist
that day but given another date. Then when we come on that day,
we are examined but given another day to either get an angio or
an echo done, making it three visits to the hospital,” a patient
who declined to be identified said. “Most patients who are
very poor can’t afford to do this. It is a waste of time and
The Karapitiya cardiology unit has one male ward
and one female ward with a total of 16 beds and one cardiology intensive
care unit with nine beds. The speculation at the hospital is that
due to the problem between the two cardiologists, the consultant
and the other whose job description is not clear yet (whether it
is a ‘resident cardiologist’ post coming under the consultant
or ‘supernumerary cardiologist’ post on par with the
consultant) the facilities are under-utilized.
What is the much vaunted, free, state health sector
offering poor patients like 10-year-old Chamila? There is another
crucial question that Karapitiya Hospital should address immediately
with regard to the heart patients who are turned away from this
important tertiary care institution, where all facilities should
be available, in the south.
Will these men, women and children be alive to
come the next day?
on the way?
The Health Ministry is intervening
to settle Karapitiya’s cardiology issues, Director-General
Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage assured, adding that there are
moves to strengthen the unit and also provide more space for