The Sunday Leader

A Closer Look At The Eye Hospital

The landmark Eye Hospital Building Photo By Thusitha Kumara

The landmark Eye Hospital Building Photo By Thusitha Kumara

By Michael Hardy

At 7:30 a.m. the vast waiting room of the Colombo Eye Hospital is packed with patients, many with eyepatches or bandages covering their eyes. They have come from all over the country and waited for hours to attend the hospital’s famous clinic, which runs every day of the week except on Sunday. The waiting room takes up most of the hospital’s ground floor, and almost every seat is occupied. Patients who can’t get a seat lean against the wall or sit cross-legged on the floor.

Although the wait is long and the air is stuffy, nobody seems to be complaining. The hospital staff is obviously accustomed to these crowds, expertly pointing patients to the correct room or floor.  “If your eyes got injured come to Eye Hospital without delay,” says a large sign on the wall. “Never put home remedies to eyes.” The warning seems redundant: the patients who have traveled so far to receive treatment have certainly gotten the message. Around 1,500 of them visit the clinic every day.

Eye care is free of charge

“There are eye units in other parts of the country, but people prefer to come here,” said the Hospital’s Director, Dr. Sisira Liyanage. “We accept everyone who comes, free of charge.”

Built in 1905 as part of the National Hospital system, the building became Sri Lanka’s only dedicated eye hospital around the time of independence. It has since gained an island-wide reputation for medical expertise and good service. So when Kandy businessman Mohammad Ramiz injured his eye, it’s no surprise that he ended up at the Eye Hospital.

One evening last year just before bed Ramiz was opening his dresser door to get his blanket when a member of his family bumped into him from behind. Ramiz banged his right eye against a corner of the door, seriously damaging the eye. The first doctor he saw in Kandy prescribed liquid medicine to rub on the eye, but Ramiz’s eye didn’t heal, so he scheduled an appointment in Colombo at the Eye Hospital.

At the hospital, the ophthalmologist ran tests and discovered that Ramiz’s eye pressure was dangerously high. If left untreated, the doctor said, Ramiz could go blind in a week. The doctor also told him he had glaucoma and cataract, which meant that both of Ramiz’s eyes would need to be operated on. That day, October 21, Ramiz checked himself into the Eye Hospital, where he was assigned one of the facility’s 467 beds. He’s been living at the hospital ever since while undergoing a series of operations.

Last week Ramiz had his latest round of surgery. With his spectacles pushed up on his forehead, Ramiz’s reddened right eye, was easily visible. He said that he was quite happy with his experience at the Eye Hospital.

“My doctor is very good, very well qualified,” he said. “And I didn’t pay a single cent for my operation.”

Like Ramiz, Thaheer Sufiyan suffers from cataracts in both eyes. Doctors have already performed surgery on one of them, and will perform the second operation soon. Sufiyan attributes his eye problems to his literary career.

“I write short stories, using small letters, so that hurts my eyes,” he said. “After the surgery my eye is perfectly clear now. The doctors are very good — the utmost treatment is given.” To distract himself from the pain, Sufiyan said that he meditates every day.

Teaching Hospital and Emergency Service

Dr. Liyanage said that under his direction the Eye Hospital employs around 60 doctors, in addition to eight consultant ophthalmologists and one consultant  anaesthetist. The center is also a teaching hospital for ophthalmology students, and runs a 24-hour emergency service. With so many patients and so many doctors, even a giant colonial edifice like the Eye Hospital can seem crowded.

“The space of the outpatient clinic is not enough,” Dr. Liyanage admitted. “In the future we have to expand. We also have to introduce new technologies to the hospital, and that is very costly. We are hoping to get new equipment next year.”

Dr. Liyanage said that all visits are free; the only cost to the patient is the price of eye glasses, which ranges from Rs. 10,000 to 11,000. Fortunately, doctors work with patients and prescribe eyeglasses the patients can afford.  But the most important part of the hospital’s relationship with its patients is trust, he said.

5 Comments for “A Closer Look At The Eye Hospital”

  1. nimanthi rajasingham

    This is great. So, even though the hospital is super crowded, people still get excellent care. thank god for national health care. Without it, people in Sri Lanka will be doomed.

  2. K.Puvana Chandra

    So nice to “see” the Colombo Eye Hospital continuing to serve the people.
    I did work and train at this premier institution and feel proud to have been part of the long tradition.
    Well done
    Keep up the good work


    Is it possible to get the contact details (preferably the email) of Dr. Sisira Liyanage pl. It seems there is no web page for this institution.

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  5. Nice Post! I found what I was looking for and I’ve bookmarked for future reference :-) Cheers

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