The torrential rains in May 2017 – the worst to hit Sri Lanka since 2003 – have swamped western and southern regions of the country with some of the most affected areas in Kalutara, Ratnapura and Matara districts. Government institutes, civil societies, tri-forces and individuals took most of the responsibility in providing initial aids to people affected by floods. As a professional organization with a social responsibility, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) decided to step in to provide necessary medical and other aids to people affected by this catastrophe.
Medical clinics were organized at affected areas of the country to provide essential healthcare when they needed them the most. The first round of emergency medical relief camps was carried out on 31st May 2017 in Sabaragamuwa in conjunction with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of Ministry of Labour led by its Director General Dr Champika Wickremasinghe.
A total of five medical clinics were conducted in Pelmadulla, Kahawatta, Batugedara and Marapana areas in Ratnapura district which were affected by floods. The clinics served over 600 patients, most of whom have never received any medical support after the floods.
Medicinal supplies, logistics for medical team and the clinics, transportation and the support staff were sponsored by NIOSH. SLMA coordinated the medical team consisting of several consultants including council members of SLMA, medical officers attached to ministry of health and few nurses from Colombo South Teaching Hospital. Commonly observed conditions amongst the patients seen at clinics included Skin infections, respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases respectively. About 20% of the patients seen at clinics were less than 18 years.
The second round of medical clinics was organized in the Matara district on Wednesday, 7th June 2017.
In parallel to medical clinics SLMA was also engaged in distributing dry rations, cooking utensils, footwear, and other necessary items to affected people with the contribution from well-wishers and variety of organizations.
Most importantly we had group discussions for the afflicted to be given an opportunity to recall and re tell their experiences and their current problems, the feedback which was sent to the acting DGHS withtin 24 hours.
Many organizations and individuals donated medicinal and other necessary items for the flood relief campaign of Matara district. Pharmaceutical items including the drugs for the clinics were provided by the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
The series of medical clinics were organized with support and partnership of Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine. The acting director general of health services Dr. Sarath Amunugama supported the SLMA in the coordination activities from Ministry of Health along with the disaster preparedness and response division.
The support received from the Provincial Director of Health Services of Southern Province Dr. Gamini Wijesuriya, Regional Director of Health Services of Matara district Dr Uapali Karunaratne, Regional Epidemiologist of Matara district Dr. Thilak Jayaweera , medical officers of health of Thihagoda and Morawaka areas as well as the field level public health staff of the respective MOH areas were crucial in coordinating and organizing the clinics.
The assistance and advice by the Director of Base Hospital Deniyaya Dr Somaratne is was also invaluable.
The following council members joined the medical clinics conducted in Matara district on 7th June.
- Chandrika Wijeyaratne (President)
- B. J. C. Perera
- Sarath Gamini de Silva
- Preethi Wijegoonewardena
- Sunil Seneviratne Epa
- Chandani Wanigatunge
- Clifford Perera
- Bhanuja Wijayatilaka
- Pamod Amarakoon
In addition medical officers representing different institutions of Ministry of Health, demonstrators from faculty of medical sciences of University of Sri Jayewardenapura, health promotion officers of Nirogi Lanka Project, Pharmacists and Dispensers of national hospital of Sri Lanka, trainee nurses from nursing training school Colombo and physiotherapists from ministry of health participated in the medical clinics.
Clinics were conducted in 3 different locations. Three teams consisting of medical specialists, medical officers, nurses, pharmacists and health promotion officers left from Colombo around 6 am to the three locations in Matara district. 2 locations were in Thihagoda MOH area while the other location was in Morawaka MOH area.
The first team took part in conducting the clinic at Nadugala temple at Thihagoda MOH area which was well attended by people affected with floods. It was noted that there has not been a medical clinic organized in the area during the post floods period. Second team conducted two separate clinics at Kottewatta area in Thihagoda MOH division. Third team conducted a medical clinic for the people who were located in a temporary relief camp located in Morawaka area. The team which included the consultant Peadiatrician Dr. B. J. C. Perera also visited the Peadiatric ward of Morawake District Hospital and provided specialist Peadiatric advice and care. Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardena Family Medicine specialist also helped in the OPD. The teams also distributed dry rations and other donations to the needy people handed over to SLMA by kind donors.
A total of 276 patients attended the medical clinics conducted by the 3 teams. About 40% of the people who attended the clinics were over 50 years of age while about 15% were less than 18 years. It was interesting to note that about 70% were females. Major diseases encountered in clinics in Matara district were respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal diseases and skin diseases.
Following are few moments captured by our photographer.