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Sunday June 20th, 2021

Army converts apparel factory into COVID-19 facility as Sri Lanka scrambles for beds

ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) announced the conversion of an eco-friendly apparel factory in Seeduwa into a COVID-19 treatment facility today, as the country scrambles to provide beds for its rapidly increasing COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalisation.

Health officials have raised alarm over Sri Lanka’s fast-declining hospital bed capacity, with daily cases now nearing 2,000 amid reports of delays in hospitalization.

Related: Sri Lanka sees hospitalization delays as authorities scramble new Covid-19 beds

State Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernadopulle told EconomyNext today that bed capacity is “almost full”.

She said the Seeduwa factory, property of Brandix Apparel Limited, was converted as part of a network of other factories, hospitals and hotels Sri Lanka’s military has temporarily taken over to treat COVID-19 patients.

“Another factory in Warellawatta is being converted by the Navy, along with several other places,” the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control said.

According to the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPOC), the Brandix facility hosts 1,200 beds and will be the biggest COVID treatment facility run by the SLA.

According to the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association website, the original 130,000 sq ft factory was converted into an eco-friendly plant by Brandix in 2008 and is said to harvest rainwater to use as its main source of water supply for the factory, amongst other eco-friendly components.

UPDATE (May 07, 12.40): The improvised treatment centre is said to have an emergency treatment unit, isolation section, resuscitation units, ICUs, and medical stores with other necessary resources. The army said in a press release that it is the first COVID-treatment facility to be prepared in less than a week as part of its initiative to face any emergency in the wake of the third-wave. The facility has the capacity to accommodate 1,200 patients at the initial stage after its opening shortly, the army said.

Fernandopulle said talks are also under way with the Department of Ayurveda to convert Sri Lanka’s Ayurvedic hospitals into COVID treatment facilities.

“We currently have 15,488 beds for COVID-19 patients in the country and we are adding to that number,” she said.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health (MoH) has 100 hospitals and intermediate treatment centers under its purview dedicated to COVID -19 treatment, official data shows. Eight out of these are tertiary treatment centers with 1,489 beds of which only 40 are available at the time of writing. Forty-eight provincial and base hospitals used as secondary treatment centers have 4,500 beds between them, of which only 20 are currently free.The ministry has also converted some hotels adding 1,900 beds to the system, but of these, too, only 200 remain.

MoH Tertiary Care Services Director Dr Anver Hamdani told the privately owned Derana TV today that 10,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past five days.

“We had only 9,000 beds before cases started to spike, but we did not give up,” he said.

Health Services Deputy Director Dr Susi Perera who spoke in the same programme said: “Hospital capacity may run out very soon. That is the danger.”

“There was no delay in hospitalisation before, but now it takes about a day to find a hospital or a treatment centre due to limited capacity. Some patients have had to wait for four to five days,” she said.

In a separate interview given to the privately owned ABC Network, Public Heath Inspectors (PHI) Union president Upul Rohana expressed similar sentiments. He warned that Sri Lanka’s health system will collapse if the daily patient count is not reduced by at least 50%.

Rohana called for a lockdown, though he acknowledged the strain it would have on the country’s ailing economy and the burdens it could impose on low-income families. However, the country must be locked down for at least seven days to bring the situation under control, he said.

Meanwhile, Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva said at a NOCPOC press briefing today that all possible measures will be taken to provide beds to COVID-19 patients even if it means troops have to give up their camps.

As of yesterday, the army had added 2,500 beds to the system, Silva said, with 5,000 more beds to be added over the next couple of days.

“We assure you every patient will have a bed,” he said. (Colombo/May06/2021)


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