Economic Development | Speeches

Sri Lanka benefits through the delivery of modernized and quality healthcare

Opening of the Apollo Hospital

Colombo, Sri Lanka

June 7, 2002

It is a special privilege and a great honour to be present here today at the invitation of Dr.Prathap Reddy, Chairman Apollo Hospital Group and his team.

Today the 7th of June is a very special day for Sri Lanka. It is special because, the new Apollo Hospital, a part of the renowned Apollo Hospital chain, will begin to provide health care for the people of Sri Lanka.

I warmly welcome you on behalf of my Government and the people of this country.

You have come to us at a time when the healthcare industry is going through rapid and innovative changes. You have brought with you the latest and the best in health care. We are indeed privileged to have you with us.

I remember very clearly when I first met Dr. Reddy in 1998? I had heard and read of the excellent, quality health care delivery of international standards rendered by the famous Apollo Hospitals Group. I had also heard of the dynamic leadership given by Dr. Reddy to make these Centres of Excellence in Health Care, a reality in Asia. I know only too well, the state-of-the-art services Apollo provided, concerning cardio thoracic surgery, organ transplantation, treatment for malignancies, advanced radio imaging technology and nuclear medicine using ultra modern equipment, latest gynaecological and obstetric care and other sophisticated services.

The investment made in the Apollo project is very significant and it set a trend for other major investments in the provision of health care, spearheaded by me in my capacity as Finance Minister through the Board of Investment in the mid and late 1990s.

I vividly remember the lengthy discussions I had with my officials of the Finance Ministry and the BOI and with Dr. Reddy’s team, clearing all bottlenecks and providing every assistance possible so that this project becomes reality within the anticipated timeframe.

Sri Lanka has always been in need of excellent health care facilities comparable to the developed world. The Apollo project is amply suited to lead this process in Sri Lanka and to be an icon in this respect.

We all know that until very recently, those who could afford it, travelled overseas to obtain sophisticated tertiary level care. More recently with new advances in health care delivery coming into the market, more and more facilities were made available in Sri Lanka. Regrettably this type of advanced tertiary care is still mostly available in the private sector. The number of state hospitals having facilities for CT (computerized tomography) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging, mammography or facilities for organ transplantation and cardio pulmonary surgery are too few and are confined largely to the urban sector.

Essential forms of treatment like bone marrow transplantation, in vitro fertilization and other frontiers of therapies for sub fertility, are yet to be established in Sri Lanka, even in the private sector.

It is also very pleasing to note that Apollo is concentrating on preventive health care as much as it is on tertiary level care delivery. This is shown in the new initiatives brought in by Apollo concerning preventive cardiac care, gynecological screening, ENT and ophthalmic care. This holistic approach to health care is indeed commendable.

Under my direction the President’s Fund, has over the years allocated funding for patients with life threatening heart and kidney disease to travel overseas for treatment, due to the inadequacy of facilities in Sri Lanka. This situation has to be corrected soon.

Ladies & gentlemen, I must also mention the initiatives my previous Government undertook to bring in a modernized and quality health care system to the state sector in the past few years. As you know, our state health care services is one of the most advanced in South Asia and caters to a large majority of our people who are under privileged. We can specially boast of our maternal and childcare facilities distributed through out every part of the island. Our excellent statistics in relation to infant and maternal mortality, low birth rates and high status of immunization bear testimony to this. But we have much more to do and many more dreams to realize for this sector.

The health sector reforms proposed by the Presidential Task Force appointed by me made some excellent recommendations concerning the development of public and private sector health care, for establishing a modern health insurance scheme and for true devolution of health care to provincial health care institutions. One of the key proposals was to establish a two-tier system of health care delivery in all hospitals, where the private sector would also have a separate wing for non-fee levying patients.

Some of these recommendations were implemented but some others could not be, due to a variety of reasons that prevailed at that time. It is necessary for us in government to speedily set about implementing the policies we have formulated which primarily target as beneficiaries the large group of under privileged people of Sri Lanka.

At this stage, I would like to make a special request to you Dr. Reddy and your team at Apollo, to do your utmost to reach out to the less privileged people of my country and to give them access to your expertise and to your resources. It will be truly gracious of the Apollo Hospital chain to give their services in this manner to my people.

Finally, Dr. Reddy let me congratulate you for the expeditious completion of this landmark project within the given time target, and for making Apollo, a reality in Sri Lanka.