Pix by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe
Some 30 years ago, an Italian businessman by the name of Renzo Montanari visited Sri Lanka on holiday. During his time here, he fell in love with the country and its people. He wished to invest in Sri Lanka, but Montanari was only familiar with the wine business. So, he decided to set up Sri Lanka’s first wine estate. At the time, everyone thought Montanari was crazy to set up a wine estate in Sri Lanka as there were no vineyards or wine production in the country. But Montanari persisted and in 1995 in Kalutara, Montanari Wine- Sri Lanka came into being. Montanari Wine - Sri Lanka provides wine to the hotel industry in Sri Lanka. Montanari’s love for Sri Lanka makes him spend nearly half of the year annually in the country.
When the COVID- 19 pandemic broke out across the world, Montanari was unable to visit Sri Lanka. But, Sri Lanka and the well-being of the Sri Lankans were on his mind. It was in the midst of the pandemic when Montanari contacted the Italian embassy doctor, Dr. A. Sebastiampillai and asked what he could to do help at this trying time.
Recalling his conversation with Dr Anthony Mendis, Consultant- Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Sebastiampillai stated that Dr. Mendis had underscored the need for high flow nasal oxygen therapy machines. “I mentioned the same to Mr. Montanari and then he decided to donate an Optiflow Nasal Oxygen Therapy Machine to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL).”
Our value systems are similar. Italians are also very much oriented around the families, home and very generous in their interactions with other people and other countries
When I came to Sri Lanka, I felt very much at home
HE Allegra Baistrocchi, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Italy
The machine, worth Rs.1.2 million, manufactured by Fisher & Paykel, New Zealand, was donated to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) of the NHSL on January 29. The event was graced by HE Allegra Baistrocchi, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Italy, Dr K. Wickremasinghe, Deputy Director General of Health Services at NHSL, Mr. A. Arsacularatne, Director of Montanari Wine- Sri Lanka, Dr Sebastiampillai, K. Niroshan, Business Manager for Fisher & Paykel- Sri Lanka, Dr Anthony Mendis, Dr Hemantha Rajapakse and Dr Marie Fernando, Senior Consultant Anaesthetist at the SICU. Due to the current pandemic, Montanari was unable to visit Sri Lanka to attend the event.
While stating that there was a need for such machines especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wickremasinghe also noted that the machine would be useful beyond the pandemic. “This machine can be used in patients with various respiratory ailments too as it will help to ease their breathing difficulties and improve their condition,” he said. Dr. Wickremasinghe said the NHSL, being the largest hospital in the island -- has 3431 beds and provides free healthcare. “In the ICU, we spend more than Rs.100 000 a day on the patients,” he said, adding that the NHSL welcomes donors to support them. “The donation of this machine is very timely and we are grateful to Mr. Montanari for this,” he said.
According to Mr. Niroshan, currently there were less than 10 such machines in the NHSL and a shortage of such machines in the country. “In Sri Lanka, 2% of COVID- 19 patients require oxygen therapy, for which this machine would be helpful. Most patients do not require high ventilation that is provided by ventilators,” he said.
Optiflow Nasal Oxygen Therapy Machine
Commenting on the machine, Mr. Niroshan said the machine takes in the room air and humidifies it and then adds oxygen to the air. “The machine delivers 100% oxygen and has a flow rate of 02-60L per minute. The machine is able to mix oxygen as per the patient’s oxygen requirement,” he said. Speaking to Daily Mirror, he said the machine can be used by one patient at a time. He stated that it takes 55 mins for the machine to be disinfected prior to the use of another patient. “The therapy period depends on the patient’s condition. Some take about a week. Some take about three weeks,” Niroshan said adding that these machines minimize the need to use a ventilator. “The ventilator is only needed for critically- ill patients. By using these machines, ventilators can be kept for critically- ill patients and with oxygen therapy, most patients would not need therapy using ventilators,” he said and added that the machine has a warranty period of two years.
This machine can be used by patients with various respiratory ailments too as it will help to ease their breathing difficulties and improve their condition
NHSL Deputy DGHS
Dr K. Wickremasinghe
The Italy -- Sri Lanka Relationship
Ms. Baistrocchi said she chose to come to Sri Lanka as she felt there were many similarities between the Italians and Sri Lankans. “Our value systems are similar. Italians are also very much oriented around the families, home and very generous in their interactions with other people and other countries. When I came to Sri Lanka, I felt very much at home,” she said adding that Montanari was one of the biggest supporters of Sri Lanka, as he was very much taken by the generosity of the Sri Lankans. “His other investments around the world are much bigger economically than Montanari Wine in Kalutara but that is his baby. He and his family enjoy visiting Sri Lanka and he regards this as his second home. It was his love for Sri Lanka that made him do such an incredible gesture in this critical period,” Ms. Baistrocchi said.