A holistic rural community development model seeking to bridge the gap between the urban and rural communities via 10 empowerment divisions across 500+ villages island-wide reaching over 35,000 beneficiaries annually, free of cost.
The ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identified in December 2019 and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020.
Since 2021, variants of the virus have emerged, including the Delta variant which is far more virulent than its original form. As of 9 August 2021, more than 202 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 4.29 million confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.
Sri Lanka has been rocked by this pandemic since early 2020 with health-guidelines and lockdowns introduced at various times in an attempt to control its spread. This pandemic has been life threatening to Sri Lankans in more ways than, not only threatening their health but also their livelihoods, income and education.
In the face of this onslaught of challenges and continuous waves of the virus, our national resources have been put under great stress with relevant authorities scrambling to meet the ever growing needs of the nation.
It is at such a time that the increasing incidence of Covid-19 infections in the Uva Province with a population of over 1 million Sri Lankans brought attention to the fact that this region was in desperate need of more second level covid-treatment facilities.
At the time patients who required observation were provided for at three first level community facilities while patients with severe illness in need of tertiary care were treated at the Badulla Hospital.
The need for establishing a similar second level facility at the Bandarawela Divisional Hospital was identified, and its existing Mental Health Unit was converted into a 50 bed Covid specific facility. Due to the limited time frame in setting up this treatment facility the ward was in desperate need of upgrades in order to handle the oncoming onslaught of Covid-19 patients, with the Delta Variant set to bring a new wave of patients in the coming weeks.
The care and concern of the doctors, nurses and other medical staff involved in this ward has far exceeded a duty-bound obligation to their patients and they, together with the Provincial Director, at such trying time took the extra time and effort in the midst of their vital role in safeguarding the lives of the patients, to reach out voluntarily to members of the community to rally the general public towards developing the Covid Facility to provide better care for more people in need of essential life-saving measures.
An initial connection with Professor Nalaka Mendis (Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colombo) made way for a meeting of minds with many community-focused benefactors and with his guidance, a group of philanthropic individuals and organizations from around the world came together voluntarily, in an example of the global community uniting to helping each other to rise and overcome insurmountable obstacles, at a time of great need and urgency.
With the objective of improving the capacity and quality of care through the provision of medical equipment as well as improving the infrastructure of the facility through providing non-medical items a collective of national and international donors made up of caring individuals and philanthropic organisations including Mr. Kushil Gunasekera, Dr. Naj Nagendran and the Foundation of Goodness, Mr. Felix Stephen and Volunteers to Assists Children with Disabilities, Mr. Skandakumar and the Oru Paanai Trust, Mr. Manik Jayakumar of Q Trade Teas and Herbs and Two Leaves Trust, Dr. Erosha Premaratne and Australia Sri Lankan Medical Aid Team (AUSLMAT) and the College of Internal Medicine Sri Lanka supported by Drs. Harsha Sathischandra (President, Sri Lanka College of Internal Medicine), Dr. Priyamali Jayasekera (Treasurer, Sri Lanka College of Internal Medicine), Dr. Roshan Piyarathne (Physician Divisional Hospital Bandarawela), Dr. Janitha Tennekoon (Provincial Director of Health Services – Uva), Dr. Leelananda Gallage (DMO Bandarawela and Dr. Upul Ranasinghe (Senior Medical Officer, Bandarawela Hospital) were formed under the guidance of Professor Nalaka Mendis.
Together the group were able to raise over Rs. 15.5 million in funds towards purchasing the necessary equipment with additional equipment donated by AUSLMAT and other individual donors. The College of Internal Medicine purchased all medical equipment while Two Leaves Trust purchased the non-medical equipment, with the Foundation of Goodness facilitating.
A list of purchases amounting to Rs. 13.8 million and donations from AUSLMAT amounting to approx.. Rs. 5 million helped complete the upgrade of the covid ward, increasing bed strength from 40 to 140 and improving the quality of care delivered.
The remaining funds were combined with further donations made after the conclusion of the Bandarawela project to provide upgrades and equipment donations to the Haputale, Haldumulla, Diyatalawa and Koslanda Hospitals amounting to approximately Rs. 5 million.
We are delighted to share that, to date, over 1,500 patients have successfully recovered from the Bandarawela Covid Treatment Facility and we cannot express the depth of gratitude for our generous and caring donors who made all this possible, especially during a time of such hardships. The incredible efforts of the medical staff from the doctors to the nurses and their administrative staff cannot be valued enough. Despite being engrossed in life saving work during an unprecedented and overwhelming medical emergency, these outstanding individuals took the time to reach beyond their duties to ensure that their patients got the best possible care, and that they could care for even more people by expanding the available facilities, truly going above and beyond in every way. They often spent their personal time managing the incoming donations, coordinating purchases and keeping meticulous records of every rupee spent to maintain absolute accountability and transparency, while also providing updates on the wards.
The most difficult times often bring out the best in humanity and restores our faith in how we can work together as a global community that works hard to uplift and empower each other, helping strangers in need with as much love and care as those closest to our hearts. The expansion of the Bandarawela Covid Facility has demonstrated this amply and we are privileged to be partnered with such amazing people and organisations who work tirelessly for the betterment of others.