Batticaloa is the capital city of Sri Lanka's Eastern Province. It is a flat
coastal plain bordered by the Indian Ocean and made up of several
lagoons, the largest of which is the Batticaloa lagoon which is 56 km
long and 162 km2 in total area.
The city's history dates back to the 1st century BC because artefacts of the Chakra and Ruhunu kingdoms may be found here in this ancient place.The Portuguese were the first Europeans to build a fort in Batticaloa in 1602. This fort was taken by the Dutch in 1638. Many archaeological sites dating to pre Christian times have been found in this region.The earliest settlers of this region were from India. Constant invasions from rulers of various parts of India saw changes of the civilian population but the people were predominantly of Indian origin; and generally from South India. Obviously, ancestors of the Tamils that are now the most populous of the races of people that inhabit Batticaloa. Sinhalese kings also invaded and drove off the Indian occupiers during the tumultuous years pre European settlement, but the ordinary civilian stayed back to make Batticaloa and the surrounds their home.
The demographic mosaic mainly Tamil (about 70%), Sinhalese (15%),
Muslim (10%) and the rest is made up of Eurasians and Dutch
Burghers, many of whom have married Sinhalese and Tamils and live in
harmony in the multi-cultural society. As per the last known count
under the 2010 consensus, nearly two million people resided in the
Eastern Province from Trincomalee to Pottuvil and including:
The Batticaloa hospital dates back in history to the early part of the
20th century. Unfortunately, there are no records available concerning the
infrastructure or the people who managed the hospital.In the late 1930s and early 1940s it was managed by the District
Medical Officer and the names of Dr. & Dr. (Mrs.) Chinniah were recalled
by some. In 1942 Dr. Pasupathy worked as the DMO followed by
Dr. Vethanayagam in 1952. He later qualified as a MRCP and became the
Senior Physician.In the late 50s the hospital had a full complement of staff including a
Medical Superintendent Physician, Surgeon, Obstetrician, Paediatrician,
ENT Surgeon and Eye Surgeon but few buildings.In 1958 a new block was constructed by the Chelliah Corporation and
is presently the Medical & Obstetrics block.
The present surgical unit was built in 1970 and a second surgeon
was appointed in 1974.The second medical unit was planned and built in the mid 70s but
it was given to the Nursing School for use as a hostel and
administrative block until a separate Nursing School was built in
1985.Other than the dialysis unit that was built and commissioned in
2003, no new buildings were constructed for nearly 20 years
between 1975 and 1995 due to the civil unrest and the ethnic
After 2003, there was some progress:
- The Physiotherapy Unit was constructed by World Vision in 2003.
- The Clinical Assessment Unit was opened in 2003.
- The new pre-mature baby care unit was opened in 2003.
- The ICU complex was opened in 2005.
- An Orthopaedic Unit was established in 2007.
- The Pediatric block was opened in 2007 and extended in 2009.
- The Nursing School and Hostel was opened in 2009.
- The OPD complex was opened in 2010.
The Batticaloa Teaching Hospital is therefore a large hospital, currently of accommodating about 1000 in-patients. Unfortunately, the hospital is old and needs upgrading in many areas of medicine; especially in the Accident and Emergency department. There are insufficient operating theatres to satisfy the demand for various faculties of medicine and surgery. We are of a firm belief that the hospital needs a modern Emergency Reception area for ambulances to bring patients who are in accidents and trauma so that they can be assessed and treated or operated promptly and efficiently. Aside from accidents there are many cases of physical disabilities which if relived will allow people to get back to a more productive life.The demand for services at the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital can hardly be met with the facilities currently available. This is the reason why we have chosen Batticaloa to receive our support.The wider region could include Arugam Bay and Pottuvil to the south where enormous tourist facilities are being constructed; yet no mention has been made of how this tourist population will be catered for in case of emergencies as a result of accidents and trauma.
The Sri Lankan civil war between the LTTE Tigers and the Sri Lankan
government forces raged in the Batticaloa region because the LTTE
claimed Batticaloa as part of Elaam. The area witnessed several
innocent people from all races being killed in the skirmishes. Likewise,
military reprisals saw a large number of LTTE cadres killed in combat.
Muslims also suffered during these conflicts.Notwithstanding the civil war, it is gratifying to see the communities
rallying around and attempting to live peacefully in a region that has
been neglected due to geographical separation from the Central and
Western Provinces and embroiled in conflict.
The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 dealt another cruel blow to the
population of the region. Water levels rose by 4.7 meters within
90 minutes and caused havoc. Many lives were lost, homes and
essential services damaged and the Hospitals were inundated with
injured people. Several have been treated but some are still going
through life with lingering pain and disabilities that can and
should be treated.
Potential for Growth
Looking ahead, it is the Eastern Province that has the greatest
potential for growth because it starts from a lower base on the
scale of things. It has some of the finest surf beaches in the world
which have hitherto been enjoyed by a few surfers who camp out
on sparse beaches or low cost cabanas. The time has come for
massive investment in tourism infrastructure to provide for a new
wave of tourism that will come in the so called "off season" when
the south west monsoon rages on the South and Western side of
the island thereby preventing safe sea swimming and surfing on
The land is fertile and is watered by tributaries of the Mahaveli River
following diversion of that great resource under the Mahaveli Scheme.
Now it is ready for large scale cultivation which will surely follow the war.
The fisheries industry is also poised for improvement.Now Sri Lanka can be a truly "round the year" tourist destination
offering people from the Northern and Southern Hemisphere a choice.
With the development of Hotels and Tourism will surely follow fun
loving tourists who will engage in water sports and other leisure
activities which sometimes bring accidents and injuries. Right now
the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital is the nearest medical facility for
the towns & cities of Batticaloa, Pasakuddah, Kalkudah and even
Trincomalee in the north. Yet, the Hospital lacks adequate emergency,
accident and trauma facilities or sufficiently equipped theatres in which
to operate and treat the tourist or the local. This is the reason we have
chosen Batticaloa as the next hospital that needs to be modernised after
Karapitiya in Galle and no doubt there will be others such as Ampara and
Trincomalee that must follow.
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