On December 26, 2004, a major earthquake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra measuring 9.0 on the Richterscale triggered a massive tsunami. According to official estimates, Sri Lanka suffered more than 31,000 confirmed fatalities; 23,000 injured had to receive medical treatment. Approximately 13% of makeshift shelters along the coastwere washed away – 69,000 houses were completely destroyed, and 43,000 homes were damaged. The number of homeless was estimated at over 500,000; every 12th island inhabitant required assistance.
The devastation mainly hit the extremely poor areas along the southern coast., where even before this catastrophe basic facilities as well as public and private infrastructures in the rural areas of the south region were underdeveloped. Hospitals, schools and other public facilities were either destroyed or damaged. Tangalle Hospital – due to lack of funds – was a facility in extremely poor condition and severely under-equipped, even before the tsunami.
An Emergency Care Unit opened at Tangalle Hospital on October 17, 2007, and is served by 10 trained Nursing Officers. It is now possible to resuscitate trauma victims immediately. This has already had and will continue to have a major impact on trauma management as well as the management of medical emergencies at the hospital. The next step now will be the implementation of an Intensive Care Unit. Nursing Officers and supporting staff are trained and ready to go. Medical Consultants have been interviewed. This will further increase the type and number of surgeries possible. The autoclave is now operational and maintained by a total of 12 Nursing Officers. The equipment is run according to the needs of the entire hospital, up to 6 runs per day. An additional Medical Officer has been hired (55 compared to 54 at the time of our last report). The number of Anesthesiologists is now 4 (up from 2). There are 2 Visiting Physicians, 2 Gynecologists, 1 Pediatrician, 1 Surgeon. The total number of Nursing Officers has increased as well (97 compared to 83 at the time of our last report). One helper, who attends to cleaning, supporting the other staff and depositing of trash, attends to the Operating Theatre, which has made a very big impact on the day-to-day running of the theatre. In addition, Nick Buckingham personally took on the responsibility to guarantee the cleanliness of the wards and the whole hospital.