The Peramaga Initiative establishes outdoor COVID-19 screening centres

The Peramaga initiative has established purpose-built outdoor COVID-19 screening centres at the Colombo North Teaching Hospital in Ragama and the Panadura Base Hospital. Peramaga is a joint effort of professionals led by pharmaceutical and healthcare specialist Dr. Sanjay Perera; infectious diseases specialist Dr. Changa Kurukularatne, MD; celebrated former Sri Lankan cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene; and the Esufally family, founders of the now public-quoted Hemas Holdings PLC, together with the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, and the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The two centres make up the first phase of the initiative’s mission to help 33 Government hospitals mitigate risk of virus transmission by using outdoor screening centres and natural ventilation strategies, an idea proposed by Dr. Kurukularatne.

Such centres have been used effectively internationally during epidemics such as SARS to identify high-risk outpatients before they enter the hospital, thus minimizing the risk of disease transmission to healthcare workers and other patients in the hospital. Treatment centres using natural ventilation strategies to manage severe respiratory infections is a concept endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Commenting on the initiative, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director General of Health Services stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires innovative ideas in order for it to be defeated. Dr. Changa Kurukularatne is an expert in the field, and it is heartening that nation-minded Sri Lankans are coming together to bring his idea to life.  We are most grateful that the Esufally family came forward to sponsor this pilot phase.”

Alongside the financial backing of the Esufally family, the Sri Lanka Air Force, led by Air Commodore Udula Wijesinghe, provided the engineering expertise and labour to build the structures, and a Hemas team led by Mr. Sanath Dassanayake contributed additional project management support.

Murtaza and Avanti Esufally said in a joint statement, “As a family, we have always believed in the necessity of equal access to a better quality of life for all Sri Lankans. In this respect, we believe it is vital to work toward the safety of the nation’s healthcare workers and the efficient identification of COVID-19 patients. We are truly humbled to be able to serve our country through this initiative. We thank the Ministry of Health and the Sri Lanka Air Force, in particular Dr. Lal Panapitiya, Dr. Anver Hamdani and Air Marshal Sumangala Dias, for supporting Peramaga, and for making the speedy implementation of the project a possibility.”

The ceremonial handing over of the Ragama Outdoor Screening Centre by members of the Peramaga initiative took place on 09 June 2020 at Ragama with the participation of Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Lal Panapitiya, Deputy Director General of Health Services and Air Vice Marshal Ruchira Samarasinghe.

“The COVID-19 coronavirus’ ability to spread exponentially makes the early identification and isolation of possible patients all the more important. These outdoor screening centres will go a long way to protect the hospital staff and patients from infection, and we are fully geared to have the centres operational at the Hospital to combat the pandemic in the most effective manner,” Dr. W. A. M. Shelton Perera, Director, Colombo North Teaching Hospital stated.

The COVID-19 outbreak can only be controlled with the collective effort of all stakeholders in the country. The Peramaga initiative thanks Orange Electric, Celogen Lanka and Cool Power Holdings for their contributions and invites likeminded individuals and organisations to join its cause in strengthening the healthcare services and defeating this pandemic.

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