Jaffna hospital struggles to cope

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: BBC
| Date: 20000911

By: Alastair Lawson in Jaffna

A hospital director in Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula says the ongoing war between the army and Tamil Tiger rebels has led to worsening conditions.

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Kanagaratnam said the Jaffna training hospital - the largest in the peninsula - did not have many of the drugs and medicines required by patients.

Some of the wards are overcrowded She said that they sometimes have to endure a two-day journey by boat to the capital, Colombo, if they are to receive certain specialised treatment.

Dr Kanagaratnam said that some wards in the hospital were overcrowded and the morgue was not big enough to deal with the bodies of numerous Tamil Tigers, killed in recent fighting with the government.


The peninsula is only accessible to the rest of the government-controlled Sri Lanka by air and sea.

The constant fighting makes matters worse Dr Kanagaratnam said that isolation of the peninsula meant the hospital had a shortage of specialised staff.

It has 100 doctors and 200 nurses but needs at least 50 more doctors and double the amount of nurses.

She said that hygiene in the hospital was compromised every time heavy fighting erupted between the government and the rebels.

The hospital's kitchens are near the overflowing morgue and staff have complained that occasionally there is an unbearable smell from bodies that won't fit in.

Effect of war

The latest batch of rebel bodies stored in the hospital is due to be handed over by the army to the Tamil Tigers on Tuesday in a procedure that is overseen by the International Red Cross.

Dr Kanagaratnam said the hospital's difficulties were exacerbated by the constant roar of low-flying aircraft, attacking rebel positions outside Jaffna Town.

This and the presence of army sentries within the hospital's precincts were said to have had an unsettling effect on patients and staff.

The Sri Lankan authorities say that they're doing everything they can to minimise the suffering of the civilian population. Search BBC News Online Advanced search options BBC ONE TV NEWS WORLD NEWS SUMMARY BBC NEWS 24 BULLETIN PROGRAMMES GUIDE

Click below for the background to Sri Lanka's long war

Key stories: An unwinnable war? Jaffna: Key to the north Arming the Tigers India's Sri Lankan scars Ethnic divide

Timeline: Key dates

Profiles: Who are the Tigers? President Kumaratunga Leader of the Tigers

TALKING POINT Email highlights

See also:

08 Sep 00 | South Asia Concern over Jaffna refugees 07 Sep 00 | South Asia Jaffna limps back to life 16 May 00 | South Asia Trapped by the fighting Internet links:

Government of Sri Lanka Tamil Eelam

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Other top South Asia stories:

Bangladesh row over floods Senior Hindu priest murdered Flower hits impressive century Calling India is sound business Cleric defends India's Muslims Sri Lanka rebel attack 'repulsed' Sri Lanka journalists condemn killing Sex scandal at Indian school Links to top South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.