Despite severe dearth of Consultants:
Mullaitivu now has a full-fledged hospital
It was 11 am, the OPD of the District General Hospital Mullaitivu was
crowded. People from all walks of life and all corners of the district
get treatment from the hospital. Located close to the A-34 Highway, the
hospital, damaged by the LTTE, has now turned into a fully-fledged
hospital with the latest medical equipment and more treatment
Wasantharaja Kirupthika, an employee of the Bank of Ceylon was in the
OPD to get a urine test done. The 22-year-old who is an asthmatic is one
among those who are happy as the hospital is being developed with the
latest medical facilities. She had gone to Mancholai base hospital when
the district was under the LTTE control as this hospital was mainly used
by the LTTE to treat their cadres and their families.
Majority of poor people didn’t have access to the hospital as the
LTTE wanted it to be used for LTTE cadres. “ During those days there
were no improved medical facilities”, she said.
Kirupthika is among thousands of people in Mullaitivu who clamour for
specialised medical care in the hospital, where there is a severe dearth
of consultant doctors. Specialists who are transferred to the hospital
have a short stint as they want a posting to a hospital where they have
more comfortable lives.
It is noteworthy, to write about how the 25 young doctors, including
22 Sinhalese and three Muslims provide medical care in all sections of
Dr. Mahendraraja Gajendran
Dr Kasun Bandara
Kirupthika said, since a few people are conversant in Sinhala and
English, it is easy for them to communicate with doctors when they are
Tamils. “At the moment we manage to talk to them and speak to them in
halting English and Sinhala. It helps us learn the two languages at
least a little”, she said.
Recalling the terror-filled days under LTTE control, she said they
never went to the hospital during those days as the LTTE were kidnapping
youth and children. “We live peacefully now and doctors are there at any
time to treat us.
They are dedicated and committed to treat us”, Kirupthika said,
adding that people in Mullaitivu are happy that their villages are being
developed with infrastructure facilities like roads, which are getting
wider and being tarred, for the first time in their lives.
Two young doctors, Kasun Bandara and Mahendraraja Gajendran, echoing
the same sentiments, requested more Tamil doctors to serve the people of
Mullaitivu. “Since my appointment to this hospital in January 2010 we
are witnessing the development taking place in the hospital.
When I came here there were no direct buses to Colombo and also to
other areas but today there are buses daily to Tangalle, Anuradhapura
and Ampara”, Dr. Bandara, an old Royalist from Dehiwala, said.
At present there are 24 doctors including three consultants in
Paediatric, Gynaecology and Surgery. There are three Tamil doctors and
two Muslim doctors and the rest are Sinhalese doctors.
“Now we are happy as we got three Consultants and hope they will stay
here for some time”, they said adding that Consultants who came earlier
returned to their places of interest citing ‘lack of facilities’ in the
The young doctors who are providing better health care for over
nearly two years since the hospital was re-constructed after the LTTE
destroyed it, said they need guidance from Consultants to handle
The two ambulances in the hospital are busy throughout the day
transporting patients in critical condition to Vavuniya or Jaffna
hospitals. As junior doctors, they said, they are reluctant to take some
decisions while treating critically ill patients admitted to the
hospital. “We can’t handle Caesarean cases, patient who suffer heart
attacks, appendicitis and other emergency cases like accidents due to
the non availability of Consultants in the hospital”, they said.
“These people are poor and most of the families there have only one
parent to look after the children. We have to transfer the critically
ill patients to Vavuniya or Jaffna hospitals for tertiary care. When one
in the family is critically ill, the single parent can’t afford to go
with the patient as there is no one at home to look after the other
children. The other issue is they are not financially stable to spend
money when they are transferred to other hospitals”, Dr. Gajendran said.
They said the people of Mullaitivu who suffered for over 30 years due
to terrorism are an innocent lot and the majority of them have now
realised that the LTTE destroyed their future. “ We don’t treat them as
Tamil patients and whoever comes to us we provide our best services to
In January 12, 2009 soldiers of the 59 division took full control of
the Hospital, which was destroyed by the LTTE who had taken away all
valuable equipment before the army’s capture. The LTTE had built a
massive earth bund opposite the hospital and they reached the site
through Thanni-atu in Mulleyaveli.
The LTTE propaganda machine claimed that advancing troops had
launched shell attacks on the hospital but the roof of the main building
which had not sustained a single damage was evidence to prove it was
But the LTTE had destroyed the children’s park within the hospital
premises and had destroyed the doors, windows, fans and air-conditioners
before they abandoned the area.
Later in 2010, after the hospital was re-opened, the Army handed over
a massive stock of medical equipment and accessories kept by the LTTE.
The medical stock, worth more than Rs. 15 million was recovered during
the Wanni humanitarian operations. The stock, comprising twenty wheel
chairs, complete sets of usable anaesthesia injections, operating
tables, trolleys, surgical equipment, sterilisers, surgical beds and
many more items were handed over to the hospital to be used.
Dr Bandara said snake bite victims were admitted to the hospital
frequently as the forest patches were being cleared for development and
also resettling displaced people.
According to doctors they have necessary equipment for the ICU but
the ICU is still not functioning due to the lack of staff including an
anaesthetist and the nursing staff. A mother who was in the Paediatric
Ward with her son said, people were happy as there was no one to snatch
their children. “Earlier, there were doctors in this hospital but they
were mainly science students who were given a brief training on
medicine. They lack knowledge on how to provide quality medical
treatment. Many people died as they didn’t get proper treatment. But now
we have qualified doctors”, she said.
The doctors said people from villages in Janakapura, Weli Oya,
Sampath Nuwara, Nedunkerni were coming to the Mullaitivu hospital. With
a daily attendance of 500 to 600 patients to the OPD and in-house
patients to the full bed capacity which is nearly 200 beds, over 70
babies are born in the hospital monthly.
“For five normal deliveries there is one caesarean operation”, said
Dr. Bandara, who is staying in the doctors quarters in the hospital
premises. He learnt to speak in Tamil when he was doing his internship
at the Batticaloa hospital said people were helpful and his patients
stop for a while to talk to him when they meet him even in the town,
though sometimes he couldn’t remember each and every patient he treated.
Dr Gajendran said treating patients at the hospital gives young
doctors experience in medical care. “ We invite young doctors to come
and serve here. As doctors we can do a lot to heal their bitter wounds”,
At a time when the Government is taking all efforts to bring
reconciliation among all communities everyone must appreciate the silent
commitment rendered by these doctors from the South. Reconciliation is
not something needed to be done in a big way but every little effort
counts in a big way. But... in this process of reconciliation, the
Tamils in the North have a greater opportunity to contribute their share
towards their own people who are trying to stand on their feet from the
rubbles of decades long deadly memories.
“Thamil dactargal yean engalukku vandu sevai seyya marukkurargal?
(Why do the Tamil doctors refuse to serve us) Engalukku sevai seyya ithu
than tharunam (This is the time for you to help us)”, said Kirupthika.