‘It can happen to anyone’ was one of the lines on the brochures of the little hearts campaign. Judging by the diversity of the little patients at Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo, this statement cannot be argued with. Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) can strike anyone regardless of age. This is precisely the reason “Little Hearts” project launched a nationwide campaign with the view of providing immediate access to critical care to all Sri Lankan children struggling with CHD and other critical illnesses.
From the countless charities asking us to open our hearts and wallets for a cause, this campaign strikes a different note. A fundraising event held at LRH recently appealed to little children across the country to join the “till parade” or “keta-perahera”. The campaign saw little donors from across the island bring their tills to the LRH in Borella help save another child’s life.
Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children Dr. Duminda Samarasinghe who spearheaded the programme said it was heartwarming to see so many parents and children contribute to the cause. “This is what these children have saved all their lives, the question is where are the adults?” questioned Dr. Samarasinghe.
Endorsed by the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians, the project aims to address a dire need of what is considered to be the world’s largest tertiary care children’s hospital. The Children’s Heart Centre (CHC) of LRH since 2007 has tripled its number of annual surgical procedures from 273 to 882 cases. The LRH cardiology team’s passion and efforts have pushed the hospital’s capacity for the treatment of children with heart disease from 15% to 60% in just a few years. However, the passionate team at CHC face challenges in their capacity to treat children in need.
“According to hospital estimates, over 3,000 are children born with CHD in Sri Lanka per year. Out of this number, the hospital can only treat 1,700 children. That means over 40% of these children do not have appropriate access to treatment and are forced to await it. The sad truth is that most of them don’t LRH’s growing waiting lists testify to the hospital’s current inability to cope with the number of critically-ill children in need of its services. When faced with waiting lists with a severely ill child in hands, desperate parents resort to private hospitals. Insurance does not cover conditions such as CHD, so they sell their property and move mountains to defeat the odds.
The construction of the LRH’s Cardiac and Critical Care Complex will ensure that every critically ill child in Sri Lanka has immediate access to quality care. The Complex is deemed a government priority but unless backed with external funding and support, massive projects like these tend to develop over several years to well over a decade.
This new ten-storey building will introduce four state-of-the-art cardiac operating theatres, increase the number of cardiac ICU beds from 18 to 40, include over 100 medical and neonatal intensive care beds, as well as the areas for advanced cardiac investigations and staff training facilities to provide optimum care for these children.
“If our goal is to raise LKR 2 billion, the amount we would invest in saving each life would be LKR10,000. It will help secure facilities that will finally put an end to waiting list nightmares and provide immediate critical care to all the children in need,” Dr. Samarasinghe added.
The project encourages kind donors to make their valuable contributions through the following options.