ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 52

Give a hand to the Accident Service

A patient-centred charity injects new life to a vital unit of the country's premier public hospital

By Marisa de Silva

He's walking on the street and suddenly knocked down by a passing vehicle. Let's call him 'Citizen-X'. 'Citizen-X' could be any one of us. He represents a random Sri Lankan - rich, poor, old, young, female, male, Tamil, Sinhalese… it doesn't matter. What should matter, however, is, what would happen to 'Citizen-X' in case of an emergency such as this.

Well, there really aren't many options to choose from. He would have to be rushed immediately to the Accident Service of the National Hospital for treatment. The Accident Service is probably one of the most crucial services provided by the State. However, not all facilities required by the Accident Service can be provided by the State. This is where the Friends of the Accident Service (FAS) steps in.

Dr. Jasinghe: Tills are placed in the hospital to raise funds for the charity

"It's usually a bit difficult to channel Government funds towards a specific short term, small-scale project such as giving a facelift to a certain department. The FAS takes on such projects. Most patients' medical needs can be met by the hospital through State funds, but there is little provision for providing social needs. The FAS raises the funds and gets the job done," says Dr. Anil Jasinghe, FAS President and Deputy Director, National Hospital (Accident and Orthopaedic Services).

The funds raised by this Government-approved charity come in handy as the NHSL is being used as a central training centre for medical staff island-wide, he said.

The FAS also goes through the numerous 'wish lists' submitted by different wards stating their needs, and prioritises projects depending on the availability of funds. In terms of a new plan, tills have been placed in the Accident Service, so well wishers can contribute if they want to. The money is collected monthly and deposited in the FSA account, according to Dr. Jasinghe.

The FAS also organises fund raisers from time to time, its next being the play 'Charandas' directed by Parakrama Niriella on June 15 at the Elphinstone Theatre. This play is based on national harmony and comprises a multi-ethnic cast, very much in tune with their own focus, Dr. Jasinghe says.

Among the projects undertaken by the FAS, Dr. Jasinghe mentions a few — the funding of tailor-made emergency carts (on wheels) fully equipped with surgical supplies to be used in times of disaster, providing free Nescafe to students at a road safety awareness exhibition held at the hospital recently, distributing fruits among the patients on Vesak day, refurbishing the OPD section and the installation of water dispensers in some wards.

"Back in the 1980's, when the Accident Service was located at the Victoria Memorial building at the Town Hall end of Ward Place, a few of us, members of the business community were invited by the then Chief Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. S.A. Ediriweera to help spruce it up a bit," remembers M. Ashroff Hussain, a businessman and founder member of the FAS.

Once the initial clean-up was done, they made a newspaper announcement, requesting people to join the FAS as they recognised that the upkeep of the Accident Service was quintessential at the time. Although the association existed since 1985, it was officially recognised as a private charity under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health in 1989.

The emergency carts donated by the FAS.
Pix by J. Weerasekera

With the Accident Service shifting to the new building in 1999, the FAS was placed under the wing of its director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe.

"We noticed that in the event of a disaster the hospital wasn't readily stocked with things like clothes for patients (at least until the relatives visited) etc., especially for large numbers of patients, therefore, the FAS began to supplement such necessities whenever they could," Mr. Hussain said.

They even got an ambulance donated from Japan, he added. Firms too can be of great help as they can either make donations in cash or kind as we try to provide items ranging from injections and surgical material to sheeting, curtaining and paint, Mr. Hussain said.

Like Mr. Hussain, Daya Bollegala, CEO/ Former President, Institute of Personnel Management of Sri Lanka and Vice President of the FAS, too was a pioneer member. Being a member of the then Hospital Committee way back in '86, he was introduced to the concept of the FAS by the then Superintendent of the Accident Service Dr. K.N.K. Wijewardena.

"He briefed me on the advantages of initiating such a venture as the Accident Service was a place where people from all walks of life are brought to in case of an emergency. Therefore, it was that much more important to ensure that the service was aptly equipped to meet the steadily increasing demand, he said.

For more information on how to help, contact Dr. Anil Jasinghe on 2692534/2691111 or the FAS Coordinator Ms. Pushpa Soyza on 2691111 Ext: 563.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.