The National Hospital of Sri Lanka, a legacy of 150 years
The saga of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) has been recounted by Dr Uragoda in his book. According to his account, the General Hospital (as it was then known) was established during Sir Henry Wards governorship (1855-1860), with 3000 pounds sterling being earmarked for the project. Until then, the government policy had been to contribute to natively-run charitable health organisations. However, after the establishment of the General Hospital, this policy was abandoned. Furthermore, the General Hospital also succeeded the Pettah Hospital, since its capacity to treat patients was very low. Accordingly, the General Hospital was opened in Longden Place in 1864, under the inaugural administration of Chief Civil Medical Officer Dr Parsley.
In 1900, Longden Place was renamed as Kynsey Place, in commemoration of Sir W.R. Kynseys services. During this era, Mutwal was the residential area of Colombo. Thus, the hospital was chosen to be located in Cinnamon Gardens, as its suburban setting was deemed more appropriate for its functions. Dr Andreas Nell, who was incidentally born the same year as the hospital was founded, provides this account of the environs of the hospital's geographical setting.
The General Hospital was not built in a very populous area. Coming from the north, there was a shady, narrow avenue behind the mansions, aTitchbourne Hall and The Gutharium. From the east, there was a similar avenue running from the Welikada Prison. Among the houses built there were also two undertakers business establishments. From the western direction, coming from Turret Road, there stood a small villa called The Mango Lodge, where the Eye Hospital stands now. This had been used as a rest house by the Dutch administrators during their many hunting expeditions. There were only five houses in the whole of Regent Street, which extended from The Mango Lodge. On the right-hand side of the hospital, a long road ran all the way to the Colombo cemetery. During the time the streets of Colombo were being named, this road was named Kynsey Road after the head of the Medical Department, Sir William Kynsey.
The Colombo Medical School, inaugurated in the former half of 1870, was a monumental asset of the Hospital that brought the wealth of health to the Sri Lankan nation. It was founded by Sir Hercule Robinson, while Dr E.L. Koch was appointed as its first principal.
The General Hospital in Colombo was the first hospital to employ women in the nursing staff. In 1878, for the purpose of initiating a college for nursing, a director as well as a nurse arrived in Ceylon from England. With the enrolment of a decent and well-educated young women, the College was opened in the General Hospital in October, 1878. The college was based on the methods propagated by Florence Nightingale in England.
In 1885, the Hospital could claim 22 wards that included 212 beds. These wards, connected to each other by narrow corridors, were divided as Naval, Paying, European, Surgical, Emergency, Indigenous Surgical, Venereal etc. The only General Physician of the hospital was Dr G.W. Fowler, while the only Surgeon and Pathologist was Dr H.G. Thomas. They were assisted by Resident Physician Dr Eliyatamby. Of the 212 hospital beds, 112 were dedicated to the Medical Unit, whereas the rest was provisioned for the Surgical Unit. However, in year 1882 alone, the hospital treated 3714 admitted patients, of whom 1509 were surgical patients. Accordingly, in 1894, the number of wards was increased to 24, while beds were also increased to number at 280.
By 1879, the nursing service had been institutionalised well into the hospital's working structure, particularly with the drafting of the constitutional documents pertaining to their roles and duties within the hospital. All nurses were brought under the purview of the Chief Nurse's supervision. These nurses were not initially afforded any technical training; the only relevant qualifications were literacy and the possession of a certificate of good character. Nurses were proportionately distributed among each ward, or clusters of wards, based on their scale and number of interned patients. They were required to work night shifts. The day-time shift, consisting in 14 hours, was from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The government faced many difficulties in recruiting nursing staff for the hospital. In the end, the Governor was compelled to request clergywomen to man the nursing staff through the Catholic Church, after Dr W.R. Kynsey who headed the department, made an official statement on February 8th, 1886, to the effect that Governor of Ceylon Sir Arthur Gordon was eager and enthusiastic to recruit Catholic nuns as trainee nurses. As per the letter that contained this statement, the State was to sponsor fully the remuneration of such recruited clergywomen, as well as to provide them with transport facilities, accommodation, and other incidental necessities. Most Rev. Christopher Bonjean, O.M.I., the Archbishop of Colombo at the time, considered this request and, upon His Graceas satisfaction, provided the hospital with Rev. Boisseu O.M.I. and six Franciscan nuns who arrived in Colombo on June 15th, 1886 from Marseilles, France. They were accommodated within the hospital's premises in a small house, after having it consecrated by Revs. Boisseu and Collin (O.M.I.), with the participation of the hospital administration. Rev. Collin was appointed as the first Chaplain of the nurses, and took abode in the housing provided for the nuns, where he even celebrated Holy Mass in a specially designated room. However, with the progress of time, a chapel was constructed adjacent to the nuns housing building, and was consecrated by Rev. Coquil O.M.I. on April 1st, 1887. In 1888, Rev. Conrad was appointed as the Chaplain of the hospital for the first time; while, until then, the Chaplain was only to oversee the spiritual well-being of the nuns serving as nurses, since then, he was also to tend to the spiritual needs of the Catholic patients patronising the hospital.
The idea to found an eye hospital named after the recently deceased Queen Victoria was first proffered by the wife of the then Governor of Ceylon Sir Joseph West Ridgeway. Accordingly, a fund was established in aid of those suffering from visual impairments. Lady Ridgeway also made public announcements regarding the project through the media. The newspaper companies supported the project enthusiastically. Ceylonese magnate Muhandiram N.S. Fernando donated an amount of Rs 5,000 in aid of this fund. In record time, the fund succeeded in amassing a lakh in rupees through public donations alone. In time, Governor Ridgeway affirmed that, although the hospital would initially be dedicated to eye-related ailments, eventually its scope would be expanded to treat other illnesses as well. With this announcement, the amount of donations for the fund increased even further.
On August 6th, 1903, the laying of the foundation stone for the new hospital was carried out under the auspices of Lady Ridgeway. This hospital remains to date, and is still visible in all its splendour at one corner of the Colombo Town Hall/Eye Hospital junction. Influenced by Hindu architectural traditions, the buildings were designed by renowned architect and member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Edward Skinner.
Skinner estimated Rs. 160,000 to be the cost of construction. The hospital spans an area of 200ft by 97ft. The space between two walls was 38ft wide. The height of each ward, beneath the ceiling was 14ft. Initially, the hospital could only house 45 patients. As at 1903, with no electric lighting fitted in the hospital, the wards were illuminated with gas lamps. The hospital did not have any ceiling fans. In 1906, a room in the Planters Ward was specially set up with four beds for the internment of members of the postal service. It became known as the Skinner Memorial Ward.
The first administrative building was established in 1904, and it still stands majestically today, known as the White House. The safes installed in this building were employed by the Colombo Hospital Board to store the moneys relevant to the administration of all the hospitals under the board in Colombo.
The First Administrative Building
The official residence of the Chief Medical Officer, constructed in 1904 and renovated several times since, will enter its centenary, in 2014.
The Skinner Memorial Ward was established in memory of Thomas Edward Barnes Skinner, who served as the Postmaster-General and Director of the Postal Services Department in Ceylon from 1871 to 1896. The Gnanasekaram Ward adjoining the Skinner Ward was set up in 1924. Today, they are both collectively known as Ward No 16. In 1943, paying wards such as Matapan were also established.
In developed countries such as England, laboratories were run by personnel who have received specific training in the special scientific methodologies pertaining to laboratories. Thus, in 1914, Ceylon too appointed its first laboratory technician. It is reported that approximately fifty personnel were provided with training to man the laboratories. However, eventually, the hospitalâ€™s medical laboratories separated from the hospital and were established as the De Soyza Microbiology Institute.
Several laboratory divisions were set up within the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, based on the needs of the specialists. These divisions were operational well into the 1970s. Towards the tail-end of the 70s, five such laboratory divisions were still in existence. The laboratory established in 1921 to identify venereal diseases and the laboratory established in 1962 as the Blood Bank was later institutionalised as the National STD/AIDS Control Programme and the National Blood Transfusion Institute. In 1978, all of the various laboratory divisions were amalgamated into one Department of Pathology, which was headed by Dr R. Ratnavel, while Mr R. Rajanayagam served as its Chief Medical Research Technician.
In 1910, the first ever out-patient department was established. Today, that building is occupied by the Main X-Ray Unit.
In October of 1918, Sir William Henry inaugurated the Merchant Ward, which is known today as Ward No 15.
The history of the Rheumatology and Physiotherapy Unit traces back to the 1920-1930 era. During that period, electrotherapy and massaging was carried out with the use of lamps and muscle stimulators administered by nurses. While physiotherapy was first truly initiated in this unit in 1949, Dr R. Neuhuber was main cause for this new development. Under his initiative, new lamps, long-wave diathermy, infra-red lamps, and stimulators were installed. There are no records of a physiotherapistâ€™s post in this unit until the appointment of a UK-trained practitioner in 1951.
In 1954, Dr Frank Perera and Dr L.D.P. Gunawardane, who had received special training in the areas of rheumatology and physiotherapy in England and New York, were appointed to the Unit. Although Dr Gunawardane departed for a short spell to serve in the Kandy Hospital, he returned soon after that same year to his post in the General Hospital. By that point, the unit had been divided in to two parts: General and Special.
In 1920, a special ward specifically to serve Buddhist Monks was established in the hospital. However, no useful records of this ward could be found.
As at 1920, the public dental health service provided only the most basic dental services. None of the significant dental surgeries were provided during that time. However, as per a strategy drawn up in 1924, a private residence down Ward Place was converted in 1925 into a dental clinic.
The Hospital Radiology Unit was established within the administrative building in 1926. Its first radiologist was Dr H.O. Gunawardane, while Messrs M.L.B.L. Caspersz and J.A.N. Fernandopulle served as the first radiology technicians. While the use of radium in treating cancer patients in the General Hospital was first begun in 1929, such use was continued until the establishment of the cancer-specific institution in Maharagama. In 1949, Australian expatriate Dr Neuhuber introduced physiotherapeutic treatment methods to the hospital. An Electro-Medical Engineering Unit was set up for the first time in the premises of the same building, upon the initiatives taken by Mr Caspersz, who also went on to be appointed its first ever Electro-Medical Technologist.
The preparation of a patient for the maiden radiological treatment of the hospital was in 1963.
The practice of inviting revered prelates of the Bambalapitiya Vajirarama Buddhist Temple to perform pirith ceremonies in Colombo hospitals originated in the mid-1930s. Moreover, while the venerable monks are reported to have volunteered assistance during the World War era, in the 1950s their support was institutionally formalised when they participated in Hospital service. With the participation of the other Buddhist temples in the vicinity of the hospital, the prelates visited the hospital to hold “Seth Pathum” vigils on behalf of the afflicted patients; they were also regularly seen presiding over Bodhi Puja being conducted at the foot of the hospital’s own Bodhi shrine. During the decade of the 60s, Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera, Ven. Vajiraramavasi Piyadassi Thera, Ven. Narada Thera, Ven. Ampitiye Sri Rahula Thera and Ven. Panvila Vipassi Thera, as well as other monks from Meththaraama and Vidyodaya Piriwena contributed very largely to serve the needs of the patients as well as the hospital’s. Because of her links to Vajiraramaya, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike too attended to the needs of the hospitals’ patients along with the prelates. Various other philanthropists also made their generous contributions. The Arogyashala Sevice Centre that was developed under the initiative of the Ven. Panvila Vipassi Thera, was reconstituted in 1974 as the Hospital Service Board, and it consisted of all voluntary service-providers as well as representatives of all hospital personnel, across the various spectra of ranks and positions.
A majority of specialist doctors in the year 1930 were General Surgeons. Although they served in a large number of hospitals, the Health Director was a British national. During the period of the World War II, specialist Dr M.V.P. Peiris and Professor Paul functioned as the Chiefs of the Army Hospital, with a large number of novice doctors practising under their guidance. During this time, the OPD unit of the General Hospital was requisitioned as a war hospital; war patients were interned in the school premises of St Joseph’s College, St Peter’s College, Holy Family Convent and Nalanda College etc.
There were two physicians serving during this time. Between the 1930s and the 1940s, what is now known as Theatre ‘D’ had been the main surgical theatre. Theatres ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ had only become operational towards the latter half of the Forties. Theatre ‘A’ has reportedly been utilised for orthopaedic surgery. Dr M.V.P. Peiris, LMS (1925), FRCS (Eng) 1929, acted as the Head of the Surgical Unit until 1932. During his tenure, he pioneered in orthopaedics within the Colombo General Hospital.
While the Marque Memorial Ward was established in 1938 for the benefit of nursing Catholic nuns, the Coudert Memorial Ward was established in 1941 to serve Christian clergymen. In present day, the two wards remain intact, and are situated between Ward Nos. 29 and 38.
The Khan Memorial Ward, also known as Ward 51, was founded in 1939 to treat paediatric-orthopaedic patients. This establishment was made under the initiative of Dr Lakshman Rajakaruna, who was a specialist in orthopaedics.
The orthopaedic clinic was inaugurated by specialist Dr Muller in 1939. In 1982, orthopaedic specialist Dr Rienzie Peiris spearheaded the construction of the Preparation Room of the clinic.
The year 1939 saw the break out of World War II. On May 9th of that year the Colombo College of Nursing was launched under the able guidance of Ms. Baird.
With the creation of the University of Ceylon in 1942, the Colombo General Hospital was selected as its teaching hospital. In 1946, Messrs. Milroy Paul, P.B. Fernando, and G.A.W. Wickremasuriya were appointed as its first professors, teaching surgery, medicine, and gynaecology and obstetrics, respectively.
Specialist Dr George Ratnavel became the first neurology consultant of the General Hospital in 1951, upon whose appointment, a few beds each of the Male and Female Wards were specially demarcated for the purpose of treating neurological patients. After Dr Ratnavel’s retirement, Dr J.B. Peiris assumed duties as neurology consultant in 1972, who also took a few specific beds of the Male Ward and, along with one ventilator and two cardiac monitors, founded the Neurological Intensive Care Unit. Subsequently, on April 8th of 1984, a formal Neurological Unit was installed.
The first orthopaedic workshopÂ had been established in the General Hospital in the year 1947, subsequent to the enactment of a special statute in the National Legislative Assembly.
In 1958, an administrative complex named the Bandaranaike Block was erected, consisting of five storeys that included operation theatres, wards, as well as a sterilisation unit. This complex remains as the administrative block, even today.
The hospital kitchens were also started in 1952 with the initiative of American-born Ms. Jailor, assisted by seven Catholic sisters. At that time, the kitchens were separated into three segments, i.e. the main kitchen, workers’ kitchen, and the Regent Street kitchen; they were later reorganised to merely the main kitchen and the workers’ kitchen, by the year 1972.
The first cardiothoracic unit was established in 1952. The year 1955 saw the beginning of the hospital’s many open-heart surgeries. Further, a six-bed, air-conditioned intensive care unit was also declared opened immediately adjacent to the cardio unit, on June 16th of 1968, by the then Minister of Health E.L. Senanayake.
An ECG Unit was opened in the out-patient department on November 1st, 1955, where approximately six patients were provided with the facility each day, with nearly half an hour being spent on each patient’s assessment.
1955 also saw the recruitment of the first urogynaecology specialist of the General Hospital, Dr George Nelson Perera.
In 1957, the College of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy was inaugurated as an affiliated institution of the Colombo General Hospital.
The School of Radiology that was founded in 1957 and situated in the X-Ray Reporting Room has, since then, been relocated to a new building adjoining the X-Ray Unit.
Pharmaceutical services were launched in 1958 in all the hospitals island-wide, including in the General Hospital. Initially, the in-house pharmacy of the General Hospital was operated by two pharmacists. While this setup was not adequate to cope with the scale and number of patients of the hospital in that era, by the year 1970, the unit came to be manned by 15 pharmacists who worked round the clock, twenty-four hours. The unit was, in fact, the first of its kind to provide such a service. With the growth of the number of in-patients and their treatment methods, the pharmacy was shifted to the top floor of the three-storeyed building initially constructed to provide kitchen facilities. The School of Pharmacology was also established in the same building.
On the 2nd of February, 1958, the then Prime Minister Mr S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike declared open the Surgical Ward and the Surgical Complex. After the opening of this block, known as the Bandaranaike Building, the first patients to be treated were neurosurgical patients. In fact, the fourth floor of this building was exclusively dedicated to Neurosurgery, consisting of 15 hospital beds. The entire movement was spearheaded by a foreign-trained repatriate, Neurosurgeon Dr Darrel Weinman. He assisted in his endeavours by another Neurosurgical specialist, Dr S.A. Cabral. Eventually, the male ward consisted of 9 beds, while the Intensive Care Unit consisted of 10 beds. The female ward and children’s ward also possessed 10 beds each. While the ICU had only two Bleez Ventilators; all patients irrespective sex or age, were compelled to receive treatment under them.
In the first half of the 1960s, the blood transfusion system affiliated to the Surgical Department was under the oversight of Dr Percy Gunawardhane. When he was appointed the registrar of the Blood Bank in the General Hospital in 1962, he took steps to relocate the Blood bank at a new venue.
In 1960 a Electro Encephalography unit was begun in the Neurosurgical Unit; while it was initially situated in the OPD, it was moved later to the neurosurgical division. In 1988, the first training school for Electro Encephalography was established in neurosurgical unit by four trained personnel. In 1997 it was shifted to the neurology unit.
Ward No 59 is the Mental Health Ward. Affiliated to the University of Colombo, its inception was in the latter half of the 1960s. At that time, the Dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Colombo was Prof Stanley Dissanayake. In 1969, he was succeeded by Dr C.P. Wijesinha.
The Victoria Memorial Building that originally housed the Eye Hospital was vacated when the present-day Eye Hospital complex was declared open adjacent to it in 1965. Two years later, on New Year’s Day of 1967, a newly constituted Accident Ward was inaugurated in the Victoria Memorial Building in a ceremony presided by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake. However, the Accident Ward known to today’s Sri Lankans was declared open much later, on March 15th, 1991, by President R. Premadasa. On that date, a new post of Deputy Director for Accident Ward was also created.
Sri Lanka’s first Intensive Care Unit was opened in the Surgical Complex on June 15th, 1968. With the inauguration of this six-bed unit by the then Health Minister E.L. Senanayake, the Emergency Trolly/Crash Cart concept was also incorporated to Sri Lanka’s medical history.
Although plastic surgery was introduced to the General Hospital in 1970 by specialist Dr A. Wijesinha, the acceptance of that branch of medicine was remarkably weak in that era. These patients were treated in two rooms that are now situated in Ward No 4.
While it has been difficult to recover historical information pertaining to the Nutrition Division, it has been ascertained that the unit was inaugurated on April 11th, 1967.
The founding of the Cardiology Unit was spearheaded by Dr I.O. Obeysekara. At its inception in 1969, this new unit laid claim to two wards and two ICUs. Today, it claims two ICUs and three wards (Wards 60, 61, and 70). This year (2014), preparations are underway to incorporate another ward (Ward No 71) to the unit. While six units are in operation, 13 doctors manage their operations. An Angiography Unit was opened in 1973.
Until the year 1972, Dr J.R. Wilson was the consultant on respiratory diseases in both the Colombo General Hospital as well as the Colombo Central Chest Clinic. In 1973, the above post was taken up by Dr Christopher Gunapala Uragoda. While respiratory patients were admitted to the hospital upon his consultation, he also conducted a weekly clinic on respiratory diseases. Dr C.G. Uragoda was succeeded in the Chest Clinic by Dr P.N.B. Wijekoon. In 1989, a new service was launched in relation to the respiratory system; for the first time in history, a Sri Lankan hospital was able to administer fibre-optic bronchoscopies on patients, under the able leadership of Dr Champa Jayasundara. This service, deployed in Surgical Theatre A, was carried out consistently for two consecutive years. The service was restarted again in 1994 by Dr Keerthi Gunasekara. During this time, Dr P.N.B. Wijekoon was the consultant for respiratory diseases at the General Hospital. Upon his retirement in 2000, Dr Amitha Fernando was appointed as acting consultant, respiratory diseases.
The Burn Unit that was opened on October 28, 1974 in the Lady de Soysa Ward was the brainchild of specialist surgeon Dr Joe Fernando. The financial cost of this establishment was borne by philanthropist and magnate, C.S. de Soysa.
Within the ward, there are 8 beds for male patients and 10 beds for female patients. The unit consists of a burns surgical theatre, a burns clinic, and a rehabilitation division.
In the 1960s, the farthest corner of Ward No 56 was demarcated for dermatological patients. In the year 1978, the Dermatological Ward was relocated to a completely different building. While, today, this location is known as Ward No 13, it was then known as the Naval Ward. The ward comprised of a wood-panelled upper floor, a rope-operated elevator and an old-fashioned staircase. Thus, the building bore the allure of historical architecture. The ward included 48 beds, which were divided between the upper and lower floors, where the former housed male patients and the latter housed female patients. In the early days, dermatological patients were not provided the facility of a clinic, and in the 1960s, were interned in Room No 36 of the Out-Patient Department.
In 1979, diarrhoea patients arriving at the OPD were cordoned in an ad hoc space and treated as a matter of urgency. This space, on June 8th, 1980, was converted by the then Director of the General Hospital Dr Joe Fernando into an Emergency Treatment Unit.
The Governments of Sri Lanka and Finland entered into a bilateral agreement in 1979 to deploy a project to renovate the Colombo General Hospital. Thus, during the 1980s, a team of Finnish specialists arrived in Colombo and, with the collaboration of specialist Dr Peiris, studied a variety of issues relevant to the matter. Subsequently, they developed a 6-stage strategy for the project, and the estimated completion timeframe was 15 to 20 years. It was also concluded that while the Finnish government would bear 85% of the total costs, the remainder was to be borne by the Sri Lankan government. The first phase of the project was to completely refurbish the Accident, Emergency, Orthopaedic, and Trauma Units with state-of-the-art equipment. This was situated at the sixth floor of the Doctors’ Residences building (No 79, down Regent Street).
The guidance provided by the Finnish government was hugely useful in continuing the work of the hospital staff in maintaining the upkeep of the refurbished units.
Although the recoverable records on the hospital’s mortuary were scanty, it has been ascertained that it was first situated in the same area as the ICU of the Accident and Orthopaedic Wards. According to some reports, the mortuary had not included refrigeration facilities. While corpses were first reportedly stored on mere ledges, subsequent to Finnish aid, a new mortuary had been opened in the new laboratory building. It was initiated as a pilot project in 1987 by microbiology specialist Dr S.D. Athukorala. Dr. Athukorala was renowned for the compilation of the ‘Infection Control Handbook’. As per an article published on July 14th, 1997 edition of the ‘Janatha’ newspaper, the mortuary possessed refrigeration facilities at that time: the mortuary accordingly consisted of 38 refrigeration units. However, this number too had proved inadequate during that period due to the then-prevalent armed conflict in the country. Today with the possession of 56 units, the congestion in the mortuary has been reduced significantly.
On January 14, 1982, a ten-bed medical intensive care unit was declared open by the then President J.R. Jayawardane. Dr P.T. de Silva, who spearheaded the project to have this ICU established, also catalysed the establishment of a Dialysis Unit, directly adjacent to the ICU unit, in what is now known as Ward No 41.
The Renal Transplant Unit of the General Hospital was opened on May 6, 1987. The first CT-scanning machine was installed in the year 1989.
The Diabetes Clinic was operational within the OPD during the time period of 1980 to 1990, Â under the supervision of Dr Salgado. Subsequently, its supervision passed to Dr Sarath Gamini de Silva for the period 1990-2000, then to Dr Kottegoda during the period 2000-2004, and since then under Dr Noel Somasundaram to date.
The hospital laundry was established as a result of Phase I of the Finland government’s renovation project, in the year 1994. The laundry consisted of two 90kg-capacity washing machines, two 50kg-capacity washing machines, one 25kg-capacity washing machine, four 50kg-capacity drying machines, a steam boiler, and a fabric pressing appliance.
The medical ward complex of NHSL was declared open by the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike on February 1st of 1995, in the presence of the then Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie.
January 31st of 1996 is etched permanently in the collective consciousness and memory of the staff of National Hospital of Sri Lanka as the day hospital was called upon to admit and treat approximately 1200 patients as a result of the bomb blast that devastated the Central Bank. 76 lives were lost that day.
Until 1980, the Medical Archival Unit of the hospital was housed near the blood bank premises, with one Assistant Health Manager, three Ward Clerks and a Junior Executive. However, after the year 1980, the unit was relocated to its current venue.
The National Poisons Information Centre was established with a generous grant received from the International Development Research Centre, Canada, on the 1st of January, 1988, under the supervision of Prof Raveendra Fernando. The Centre was also incidentally the first of its kind in all of South Asia. The Centre holds full membership with the WHO-affiliated Association of Clinical Toxicology and Poisons Control Centre; it also works in direct association with UK Toxbase and the Thailand Poison Information Network.
Under the supervision of specialist Dr Sudath Gunasekara, a Clinical Neuroanatomical Unit was established within the Neurology Division in the year 2000. This unit assists in the treatment of both neurological and non-neurological patients. Dr Sudath Gunasekara became the first Neurophysiology consultant in Sri Lanka, having been appointed to that position in the year 2000; this advancement particularly brought with it the technical expertise of conducting BSER, VEP, VEEG tests at the General Hospital, under his guidance through the Neurophysiology Unit.
The year 2000 also saw the opening of the innovative Speech Pathology Unit under the leadership of Dr Jagath Wijesekera, thus introducing treatments for ailments such as speech defects, language defects, and swallowing difficulties etc.
Since the year 2000, the Dental Clinic came under the purview of a Deputy Director attached to the NHSL. Also in the same year, the first ever MRI machine began its operations in the hospital.
The first Vascular Surgical Unit of the hospital was launched according to the vision of Prof Sherifdeen, through the interventions of specialist vascular surgeon Dr S. Daminda Rajamanthri. The Unit was opened on January 27 of 2005, in the old ground floor of the Victoria Memorial Building.
Rabies Treatment Unit began operations on April 4, 2005, in Room No 2 of the Out-Patient Department.Before before starting of this Unit, the procedure was , admit patients who required the administration of Anti-Rabies Vaccines and Anti-Serum to the ward, where sensitivity tests would be carried out on them before the vaccines and serum were provided. The Director and the Deputy Director Mrs Rani Fernando offered support for the launching of this unit tremendously. This unit was the brainchild of Dr Amila Gunasekara.
,Neurotrauma Unit Â was funded by the generous donations of the Government of Saudi Arabia. The foundation stone to the unit was laid by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 26, 2005, upon the invitation of the then Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. The occasion was graced by the presence of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr Mohammed al-Ali.
This momentous project took six years to complete, and was opened for the public’s benefit on March 31, 2011 by President Â Mahinda Rajapaksa, upon the invitation of the Health Minister Hon.Maithreepala Sirisena. Saudi Arabian Ambassador Abdul Aziz A.R. Jamaaz, as well as the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Saudi Development Trust Fund Yusuf Ali Basam were also present at the occasion.
The third Medical Ward Complex was constructed with the aim of mitigating the inconveniences faced by patients upon admission to the hospital. It was opened on April 19th, 2013, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, upon the invitation of the Health Minister Maithreepala Sirisena. Minister A.H.M. Fowzie and the Director of the Hospital Dr Anil Jasinghe Â were also present at the occasion.
On June 21st, 2013, the Pain Management Unit was opened under the directives of consultant Anaesthetist Dr Rohini Ranwala.
On May 2nd, 2014, the Cornea Collecting Centre was launched under the auspices of the National Eye Bank of Sri Lanka (NEBSL). A health assistant from the NEBSL coordinates the services, working round the clock daily. The collected corneas stored in a deep freezer and are transported to the NEBSL.