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Friday, February 9, 2018

Castle Street Hospital - then and now - By Dr. Nalin Rodrigo

While waiting for someone to step in with a contribution so that I may publish another gem from Speedy which is in the pipeline (my policy is not to publish two from the same person successively), I thought most viewers would not have read what I am about to publish. However, I know for sure that all members of our batch would be interested in the subject. Those who have read it before, might want to re-read it. Please note that  Dr. Nalin Rodrigo passed away some years ago. I picked this up from a past issue (December 13, 2000) of The Island newspaper. If I am not mistaken, Dr. Rodrigo came to Castle Street Hospital 10 years after our graduation in 1967.

It was from this speech that I gathered that a relative of mine - Dr. (Mrs) Buddhimathi Kulatunga (nee Jayasundera) had delivered the very first baby at the CSHW when she was a Resident Obstetrician there. She too passed away some years ago when she was in her eighties. On a much more personal note, I must mention that my daughter Dilushi was born at this hospital under Dr. P. Dissanayake's care (father of Professors Manouri Senanayake - Paediatrics and Chandrika Wijeyeratne - OBGYN, the current President of the SLMA). I got my wife Mangala admitted to this state hospital on the advice of knowledgeable friends who warned me that some of the private nursing homes at that time lacked even basic facilities (and not heeding the vehement protests of the patient who was unaware of this fact and who had delivered our son Shehan at St. Michael's Nursing Home seven years before!)

Castle Street Hospital - then and now

Address delivered by Dr. Nalin Rodrigo, patron of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Medical Director of Asha Central Hospital, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Castle Street Hospital recently.

"I must thank you for doing me the honour of inviting me to deliver this keynote address at this meeting to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Castle Street Hospital. I believe I have been invited because I was one of the first House Officers at this hospital after it was made a specialist manned hospital, in the year 1953 at the beginning of career, and because later I completed my career also at Castle Street as Consultant for 12 years from 1977 till my retirement in December 1988.

This hospital was started as a Maternity Home to take over the surplus patients from the De Soysa Hospital where in 1949 there were over 13,000 deliveries and where in 1948, there had been a major outbreak of puerperal spesis. The hospital was declared open by Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the then Minister of Health and Local Government on the 4th of December 1950, seen here in the company of Dr. W. G. Wickremasinghe the then DM & SS. The first patient was admitted in the 11th of December 1950, and the first baby was born in the new hospital a girl named Kamala Sarojini on the 13th of December. The doctor in attendance was Dr. (Miss) B. Jayasundera, later Mrs. Kulatunga. In 1951, Dr. S. D. Ratnapala was appointed as Senior Resident Obstetrician in charge of the hospital. He was a lecturer to the midwives and nurses and it is to his credit that he wrote an excellent book about pregnancy and labour in Sinhala and included Sinhalese terms for all the technical terms in obstetrics. His two sons SR and MK are both Obstetricians now.

Statistics for the first three years of Castle Street Hospital indicate that there were 23 deliveries in 1950, 1653 in 1951 and 4765 in 1952. The staff at the start of the hospital is shown here. The hospital in its earlier years had a number of House Officers who served for fairly short periods, apart from Dr. (Miss) Jayasundera, who later became a tutor to professor Attygalle, there was Dr. Dora Weerasiri (later Dr. Munasinghe), Dr. S. B. Talwatte, now the well known Radiologist, Dr. Blaze son of the then Deputy Director of Health Services. There was also the late Dr. Wijesinghe who later became the first Plastic Surgeon. I remember later at a union meeting somebody said that Dr. Wijesinghe had never worked outside Colombo and he (said) ‘why not I have worked at Castle Street Hospital'. The hospital was at that time somewhat remote and on the outskirts of Colombo. Castle Street however was very old and very well known road and one of the most distinguished persons who lived down this road was Sir Oliver Goonetilleke who of course is the grandfather of Dr. Mrs. Hiranthi Wijemanne of the UNICEF.

In 1952 Dr. F. Noel Spittel who was the Senior Obstetrician at Kandy was transferred as the Consultant Obstetrician in charge to the Castle Street Maternity Hospital as it was then called. Dr. Noel Spittel who may be termed the father figure of the Castle Street Hospital, he was a descendent of Jan Laurence Spittel came to Ceylon from Saxony in 1760. His father was Dr. Fedrick John Spittel, Provincial surgeon. He was the brother of the famous Dr. R. L. Spittel, who was the Senior Surgeon of the General Hospital but was even better known as an authority on the jungles and the Veddha community of Ceylon. Dr. Noel Spittel was not only a strict disciplinarian but he also had a wry sense of humour. I remember one day the husband of a patient wanting some favour told Dr. Spittel 'Sir, I know your brother'. 'Then you must be a Veddha' said Dr. Spittel and moved on. Another day a man was visiting his wife outside visiting hours when Dr. Spittel was doing his ward rounds. The man tried to explain and said that he was an engine driver and said that as he was running his train at the time of the hospital visiting hours he had to come and see his wife at this time. Dr. Spittel said "I say, man if I am operating at the time your train is starting would you hold up your train until I come'. Unfortunately the engine driver could not quite understand the point and I can still remember the sense of bewilderment on his face as Dr. Spittel left the ward. Dr. Spittel was a top class Obstetrician and worked alone. He was on call, day and night every day! I remember the only time he called for a 2nd opinion was when he once called his friend Sir Nicholas to advice on a complicated case. I remember that when Sir Nicholas saw me there he said "Ah hh....this beggar is also here" and laughed loud.

Dr. Spittel started his ward rounds at sharp 8 a.m. and all of us had to be assembled to follow him.
The ward round was a grand procession led by him, followed by the ROO, then the house officers, the matron and in every ward, the sister and all the nurses had to join the procession. When he left the ward on one side the end of the procession was entering the ward on the other side. He examined every single patient both in the anti-natal and post-natal wards as well as in the labour room. He moved from ward to ward along the bathroom corridors inspecting the condition of the bathrooms. All the time he conducted a stimulating and often hilarious conversation on various topics and telling us many stories about his past career and experiences.

At this time the hospital consisted of 6 wards, 3 ante-natal and 3 post-natal in addition to the OPD, the labour room and a pre-mature baby unit which was opened in January 1952 and work had also begun on 4 additional wards, 2 operating theatres and a labour room.

With the appointment of Dr. Noel Spittel, the hospital ceased to be a glorified Maternity Home and developed into a first class Maternity Hospital, clean, efficient and very well managed. It was at this stage with the arrival of Dr. Spittel, that two ladies and I were appointed House Officers to the hospital. Dr. Tefny Fernando who later married Mr. Denzil Fernando who became an MP and a Minister and Dr. Maimoon Lebbe were my colleagues. Dr. Lebbe who is now Mrs. Fernando was the first Muslim lady doctor who qualified in this country. In addition to the three of us, Dr. Ratnapala continued as Senior Resident Obstetrician and there was Dr. (Mrs.) Yvonne Herft who was the RO. Each of three of us, House Officers, had to look after one ante-natal and one post-natal ward. One day we were on duty from 8 O'clock in the morning to 8 O'clock in the night. The next day we worked from 8 to 5 and then came on for night duty at 8 p.m. and the following day after night we worked till 12.00 noon when we were half day off. It was very hard work, especially as the boss insisted that all episiotomies should be sutured soon after the delivery. In my case I was fortunate though a bachelor, to have one of the quarters which are now called the Married Quarters a twin house. Mrs. Herft and her family occupied the other half.

Dr. W. H. Fernando the eminent Gynaecologist who was himself RO at Castle in 1960 and 1961, tells me that he himself was delivered by Dr. Spittel. WH's father was DMO Pussellawa and Dr. Spittel drove down from Kandy at 10.00 p.m. and reaching Pussellawa 2.00 a.m. WH was born later in the morning on 1st July 1927. Dr. Spittel was presented with a gold sovereign, the ultimate present in those days!

The Matron in my time was Ms. F. M. de Silva, she like most of the senior staff was hand-picked by Dr. Spittel.

Everyone of the sisters was very efficient and were strictly supervised by the Matron. One of our nurses at that time was Miss C. M. Perera who later married Dr. Mylvaganam, and is now one of the Matrons at Asha Central Hospital where I work.

At that time there was a jam fruit tree which I had planted at the front of our quarters which has now been cut down to erect a boundary wall between the quarters. In the evenings I used to do my night rounds and after that I use to sit around and talk to the night staff. One day I remember telling a few ghost stories to the girls in the late hours of the night. Later when I was walking to my quarters I saw a ghost hanging from the lower branches of the jam fruit tree and it was slowly moving, more or less beckoning me. It was a frightening experience, I remember running back to the hospital and summoning some able-bodied labourers and finally we discovered that it was just a large distended plastic bag which was moving slowly in the wind in the moon light. This story went round all the house officers quarters and it took me a very long time to live this down. Matron Mylvaganam told me another story, that on several days at night the girls found an empty wheelchair moving rapidly down the dimly lit corridors. This created havoc among the nurses who thought that this was another ghost story. Later she tells me it was discovered that the only male House Officer, in the hospital at that time used to send this wheel chair careering down the corridor before he entered the labour room for a night call. Now that we are on the subject on this corridor I must relate another strange story which is not in the text and which took place many years later when I was a consultant. I was walking down the same corridor on to which some MOO rooms also open, followed by my retinue - Registrars SHOO and several HOO going to the clinic after the ward round. When I reached the clinic I noticed that two of my MOO were missing! The couple arrived in the clinic later. Looking a bit dishevelled to date, I don't know why.

As far as I was concerned, I managed quite well during these strenuous duty shifts because the Health Department Sports Club was just next door and I use to walk there and the call book was brought there.

In those days in the early 50s, when I was a house officer at Castle, the practice of Obstetrics was different from now. For many reasons, Caesarean section was not performed very often. Deliveries were performed mostly vaginally and forceps mid cavity and even high forceps were performed. Kiellands forceps was used frequently and we became fair experts in the use of these instruments, especially the Kiellands, in fact I even bought a Kiellands forceps for my own use. Internal versions, decapitation and craniotomies were often performed. These are not procedures we would dare to do now I dread to think of this now, but they were common place at that time. I remember many cases of decapitation for prolapsed arm. This was a common procedure in those days especially as we got transferred cases coming in after many hours with a prolapsed arm, infection, and a tonic uterus. Most of the procedures were performed by Dr. Spittel under chloroform. Even, now it is sometimes difficult to get an anaesthetist, in those days it was almost impossible. I remember that one of those we managed to get to anaesthetize at that time was the late Dr. Leo Fernando who later founded the Philip Memorial Hospital in Kalutara. Chloroform was administered by us HOO. In time I became an expert in chloroform and other Anaesthesia. In fact, I remember a ceasarean section performed by Dr. Spittel with myself holding the chloroform mask.

Age tells and memory fades but I can remember that those days at Castle Street, though extremely strenuous and hazardous, was very rewarding in the big run. I have always told my House Officers and I have had about 140 through the years, that if they work very hard during their internship they will continue to work hard for the rest of their career but that if they slack during their internship, they will be lazy and shirkers for the rest of their career. Gynaecology was started in 1955 and Dr. Spittel retired in 1956 and Dr. S. W. Jayaratnam succeeded him as Obstetrician in charge. In September 1954 I myself was transferred as Resident Obstetrician. Kandy Hospital under Dr. P. de S. Wijesekera had tremendous experience and was a master of Obstetric vaginal examination and manipulations. It was rumoured that he had examined so many women that even when he walked he had the 2nd and 3rd fingers of his right hand stretched out ready for action! Kandy was an extremely heavy station as there were no specialist units in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Matale, Kegalle, Gampola and Nawalapitiya and all the complicated cases from these areas were transferred to Kandy. Several people protested saying that I was too junior to be appointed to this job and would not be able to manage the arduous duties as RO Kandy. However, due to the excellent training that I had under Dr. Spittel I managed. In later years Dr. Wijesekera went to the extent of asking me to look after the confinement of his own daughter who is married to my friend Dr. Atukorala, the eminent Dermatologist.

It was 23 years later in 1977, that I returned again to Castle Street Hospital for Women as it is now called, this time as Consultant in charge of Wards 3 & 4. The existing rule of grade seniority alone for Colombo was changed to a point system and at last the golden day dawned and I was able to get to Colombo on the 1st of January 1977, after 19 long years as a specialist in the outstations, 19 years as a Consultant in the outstations was then and I believe even now, a record.

When I returned to Castle Street in 1977, things were quite different. Not only had the practice of Obstetrics changed, the buildings and equipment in the hospital were also much more developed than when I was a House Officer in the early 50s, the historical landmarks up to this period are summarized here. There were now 10 wards with 5 consultants, where there was earlier, only 6 wards and one consultant, a new set of theatres, an excellent pre-mature baby unit, a large House Officers Quarters and a nurses quarters there was a blood bank and there was a pathologist, Dr. Meththananda de Silva, whose son is now a medical specialist at Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital.
My colleagues during my earlier years were the late Dr. Ashley Dassanayake who was the leading figure in Obstetrics at that time with an extensive practice who in his own words worked "round the clock". There was my old friend P. Dissanayake, who went to England with me and passed the membership with me, Dr. J. B. Gnanapragasam and the late Dr. W. S. C. Fernando. We got on extremely well and I cannot remember any problems between us. Gradually, one by one all my colleagues retired and were replaced by other senior consultants from the outstations. I must mention the name of Dr. Ashmore Atapattu who worked for 5 years and in addition to being a consultant, he also did the administration of the hospital. I must of course, mention Dr. Lakshman Fernando who is out of the island who started his Obstetric career with me in Negombo and was with me in Castle as Consultant for the last five years of my career.

When I was working as Obstetrician in Negombo we had a badminton team which played against many local teams. I was the captain, not because I was the best player but because I was the only Consultant on the side. I only played in the doubles and Dr. Lakshman Fernando who was MO, OPD was my partner. He covered the baseline and did a lot at running while I stood at net and did no running. At this time the post of RO, Negombo fell vacant and the Head Office asked me to nominate someone to act as RO. Although Lakshman had done no Obstetrics at the time, in order to safeguard my place in the badminton team, I recommended him and he got the job. There was no stopping him after that, later he became an assistant to Prof. Ranasinghe and had no difficulty with the membership examination.

Before us, many eminent consultants served at Castle Street. Among others those were Dr. S. H. P. Nanayakkara who set the pace especially in major gynaecological surgery for us to follow, there was Dr. S. Rajanayagam, Dr. A. G. Muthuthamby, Dr. E. W. Jayaratnam and Dr. S. Panchalingam.
I succeeded Dr. Miss Panchalingam who herself was a strict disciplinarian. Once her SHO Dr. T. Siriwardena now a busy Consultant was coming late for work. He had to pass her to get to the hospital before her and he ducked under his steering wheel of his car as his car went past her car. I am told that Ms. Panchalingam saw a driverless car passing her and was terribly distressed and had even wanted to inform the police and complained. Dr. Siriwardena himself who had told her that these areas being close to the cemetery were haunted and after this I am told she always came with a servant in her car.

I remember when I took over wards 3 and 4, out of about 20 lavatories only 3 were working and this was terrible for the patients. I told the PWD overseer several times but he did not do anything, saying that various items were out of stock, etc. At the end, I told him that I knew Mr. Premadasa very well and could speak to him and get whatever was needed. Mr. Premadasa was Minister in charge at that time, and I knew that he got things done! Although I told him that I knew Mr. Premadasa and could get the required parts — actually I did not know Mr. Premadasa at all at that time but within 3 days of my telling this to the overseer the bathrooms had all been repaired. Later the wife of Mr. Ratnasiri Rajapakse, who was later Mayor of Colombo delivered in our ward I told him this story, that merely mentioning the name of Mr. Premadasa had bought spectacular results. He had repeated this story to Mr. Premadasa thinking he would be pleased about it but Mr. Premadasa sent word to me asking for the name of the overseer and saying that if he could have repaired it after his name was mentioned why he did not do it before, etc. I avoided this subject when Mr. Premadasa visited the hospital later and luckily he did not press on asking for the name of the Overseer.

I visited Castle Street hospital very recently in order to write this report and I was amazed at the progress that had been made after my retirement at the end of 1988. There is now a library, a new auditorium to seat 250 with a tutorial room and a mid level staff library. A powerful generator has been installed which can supply electricity to the entire hospital starting in 15 seconds. An Intensive Care Unit is in operation. An excellent Paediatric ICU is functioning. A new waiting hall is nearing completion and all over, there is activity. Even the road is being carpeted and what was a crying need in my time, a casualty operation theatre for emergency caesarian operations will shortly be commissioned. A model system of waste disposal has been put into place and administrators from all over the island come to study this.

This slide shows the bathrooms and the toilets in Dr. Sirisena's ward. The Past Patients Association collected funds and completely renovated these toilets at a cost of 1 million rupees and now a cleaning service is paid Rs. 12,500 a month to clean the toilets. This I would imagine is the only public toilet where hot water showers are available. Incidentally I am glad to mention that Dr. Sirisena was also one of my past Registrars. Arrangements have also been made to notify the local midwife when a patient is discharged after delivery so that she can to be followed up. It is also noteworthy that at Castle Street Hospital, all national events such as Wesak, Deepawali, Christmas and Ramazan are celebrated at the hospital and this includes religious observations.
There is also a praiseworthy system of counselling of all the patients entering and leaving the hospital regarding their special needs and problems as shown here. This slide shows the neat verandah of Dr. Almeida's ward - these flower pots and chairs were all brought in by him.
It must be mentioned here that the first AIDS positive mother was delivered at Castle Street Hospital in 1990. It is praiseworthy that Dr. Marlene Abeywardena, who was the qualified RO, readily and willingly handled this case at this time.

Up to 1972 the babies were all kept in a special baby room. Then after a severe diarrhoea epidemic it was Dr. Lakshman Fernando who was instrumental in organizing the present system where babies are kept with their mothers after delivery.

Mention must be made of what happened in the hospital in March 10th this year. After the bombing at the Aurvedic Hospital junction, some of the terrorists ran along Castle Street Hospital shooting at random. They fired five shots into the hospital injuring 8 visitors and an RPG fell in the space between Dr. Senanayake's and Dr. Almeida's ward. Fortunately these two worthy gentlemen were not injured! One of the visitors was badly injured in the abdomen. He was the only male ever admitted to Castle Street Hospital and was operated by a team of young registrars and house officers led by Dr. Abeysinghe. This patient was saved due to the excellent service by the hospital and its young doctors (a window damaged by a gun shot as shown here.)

Dr. K. K. W. Karandagoda, the present Director is a very able man and a man with vision and it is noteworthy that the Castle Street Hospital in spite of financial and other constraints is moving forward under his able guidance.

Above all the hospital is now staffed, by an able and dedicated team of Obstetricians namely, Dr. L. A. W. Sirisena, Dr. Lakshman Senanayake, Dr. Ranjith Almeida, Dr. K. D. S. Ranasinghe and Dr. Desmond Warnakulasuriya who was recently appointed.

To end on a personal note, at this stage of my life and career when I have practically retired from active obstetric practice, I was extremely happy to have been given the opportunity to make this address. Dr. Senanayake told me not to make this a mere recital of facts but rather to make it contain more reminiscences and stories and this I have tried to do. It is extremely gratifying to me to find that most of our consultants in Obstetrics and Gynaecology now, have crossed my path, some time or other as medical students, HO, Registars, or colleagues.

Those doctors who worked in my own unit at Castle Street Hospital and are now distinguished Consultants include, Dr. Ranjith Pathiraja, Dr. Deepal Weerasekera, Dr. Rohana Haththotuwa, Dr. Hemantha Perera, Dr. Darshan Weerasena and to mention last but far from least, Dr. Kapila Gunawardena. Incidentally Prof. Malik Gunawardane, present here also worked here and Maud, his wife conceived and had her babies here. Professor Chamberlain, then President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists who toured the island a few years ago when he was given a farewell dinner at Kandy and spoke after I did said, jokingly amidst laughter that he seemed to be the only Obstetrician in the country who had not worked with Dr. Rodrigo.

In preparing this paper, my thanks are due to the Director Dr. Karandagoda, to Dr. Lakshman Senanayake for his considerable help and specially to Lakshman's son Asela, the medical student who did the photography, to other Lakshman Fernando from whose paper the "Tale of two hospitals" I have quoted, and Sampath our Secretary, who typed this and had a tough job with my handwriting".

BA's note: Dr. Nalin Rodrigo is a former Chairman of the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital.


  1. Thanks Lucky for that wonderful account of the life and times of Nalin Rodrigo so far removed from the present. I remember several of those iconic names mentioned. That of Ashmore A. stands-out as an isotope of Prof Ranasinghe. I wish there was a bit more of that milk of human kindness. Although many stories come to mind None will be mentioned!! I admire immensely Prof Ranasinghe's laconic style of teaching the basics. Ashley Dassanayake was a family friend whom I met once in London. He was a charming gentleman and was married to the sister of a batchmate Dharmini. My memories of Castle Street are more confined to the Health Dept Sports Club of which I became a supporting pillar. I am reminded of one of Prof Rajasuriya's jokes " One needs only 2 fingers to become an obstetrician" perhaps inferring a brain is not a requirement.
    I have become rather distant from the health scene in SL and havent even seen the Sri Jayawardene Pura hospital. But I am grateful for those recollections of an old time consultant to rekindle some memories of people and places that were a part of me as a young medic growing up in an uncertain world. The SL I knew as a medic only exists in a secure corner of my brain.

  2. Thank you Lucky for posting this. There are so many things arising from this, it is possible to write an essay rather than a comment! Firstly, it was fascinating to see how Maternity services evolved in Sri Lanka. One thing I noted was the immense power and authority Consultants in a bygone era possessed. This applies I am sure, all over the World. It required a high degree of honesty, integrity and humility to discharge their duties in an ethical and professional manner. Needless to say, not all did as we all know but we did have a lot of high calibre worthy individuals.

    The next point I noted was Dr Rodrigo's habit of noting how people are "connected",which I find is a special Sri Lankan characteristic. Whenever we Sri Lankans discuss people, we always hear statements such as, "Did you know that X married Y's daughter who went on to become a famous lawyer and got married to Dr Z's son?". Or "is this the same R.Fernando who had an affair with 'One-Siriwardena's' daughter?". I always invariable find that when conversation proceeds, you find that person in question is somehow related to you!

    A name I have heard of many times is Dr R.L.Spittel. I had no idea that he had a brother.also famous, called Dr Noel Spittel. Their father Dr F.G. Spittel was a surgeon and is of Dutch Burgher origin. He was educated (like Dr LAW Sirisena also mentioned) at Royal College, and after qualifying went to England for his post graduate studies and was the third Sri Lankan doctor to obtain the FRCS, the first being Dr S.C.Paul (Prof Milroy Paul's father), and the second, Sir Arthur Marcellus De Silva. As far as I know, Noel Spittel did not share Dr R.L Spittle's interest in the Veddahs of Ceylon.

    The next connection is my short exposure to Castle Street to deliver babies as if I recall correctly, we had to be present and take an active part in 12 deliveries to be signed up. I am sure that this is not a big revelation but it was not unknown to "claim" deliveries which took place on the day you visited although you may not necessarily been physically present at the delivery.

    The most heartening thing was to observe the great progress made over that period of time.

    Finally, I noted that the particular variety of "Sri Lankan Influenza" could be passed on and did achieve results even in the Premadasa days!

  3. I,too like to associate with the flowery expression of Nihal&Speedy(mahendra),with reference to the long and interesting article about the Castle street Maternity hospital.
    LAW.Sirisena was a good friend and a Bloemite.I have heard of Dr.Ashley Dassanayake,who was stationed at Anuradhapura,General.He had already left,when I joined the hospital,in 1978.Staff spoke highly of him.As,Nihal mentioned,he married Dammi's elder sister.
    Dr.JB Gnanapragasam was the VOG,who took over Ashley's position.He was our own Sarvanandan's brother in-law.
    Dr.Gnanapragasam delivered our own daughter at the same hospital.His own son is A GP in Surrey.
    I never had a chance to obtain any Obs&Gyn experience in Castle street.However,I had the opportunity to deliver babies,more the requirement to get the signature,at the De Soyza maternity unit.

    I,heard that Miss Panchalingam never allowed his house officers to suture the episiotomies.House officers were treated as mere clerks!


  4. Lucky, Castle Street hospital is a distant memory to me- was good to be reminded of some of what went on - thank you.

  5. Lucky, thank you for posting this interesting historical account. The advances in OB/GYN in Srl Lanka as well as in other countries, have thankfully eliminated gruesome procedures such as decapitation and craniotomies. I did not have the privilege of working at 'Castle Street' but did my rotations with Prof. Ranasinghe (whose Registrar was Ashmore Attapattu at the time) at the De Soysa Maternity Home. I think I attended every delivery that I was supposed to assist in. (I did not fudge! ) I do remember distinctly that first time, when I saw an infant being born, it was an awesome, somewhat spiritual experience.
    Thanks to the midwives who operate in the rural areas and hospitals such as 'Castle Street' Sri Lanka has the lowest infant mortality rate in South Asia. This is close to that of developed countries (Daily News, Dec 25,2017). I think that is far better than some of the inner cities in the US. Overall, the infant mortality in the US is 6.7 deaths per 1000 live births, while Japan has the lowest, 2.6 deaths per 1000 live births. In 2008 the US was ranked thirty-fourth in the world (Huffington Post). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2016 the infant mortality rate in the US ranged from 4.8 to 9.1 deaths per 1000 live births depending on the State. In 2015, Non-Hispanic Blacks had an infant mortality rate of 11.3 per 1000 live births. The World Bank lists the infant mortality rate in Sri Lanka as 8 per 1000 live births in 2016. I hope that these statistics continue to improve. We should be proud of our OB services and our progress over the years.

  6. Hi!Srianee,Thank you for updating about the mortality statistics.No wonder,US,is high in infant mortality rate. .Their,Private health system is affecting,not only the poor,rich are also affected.I am sure,you will agree-
    As far as the Professorial unit of Ranaya is concerned,there were three Registrar during our time.They were Asmore,Mahasara and P.c.Induruwa.Dr.Induruwa went on to become a General Surgeon,Ashmore migrated to one African country,Mahasara ended up as a Professor.I am sure,Lucky has all those data at his finger tips


  7. Mahasara Gunaratne went to Peradeniya as Professor. It was Prof DE Gunatilake who took Prof Ranaya's place. DEG was followed by Prof. SHP Nanayakkara followed in turn by Prof Harsha Seneviratne who was junior to us in Med School. Harsha was also the Dean, Faculty of Medicine.

  8. Most of us didn't think much of Ashmore Attapattu who appeared aloof and unfriendly. Prof Ranasinghe was a good Teacher of the old school, very didactic and not prone to encourage questioning and challenge. Harsha, who was in my brother Nihal's batch has of course made quite a name for himself. His "patients" in the Private sector do not refer to him as Prof. Seneviratne, but just "Harsha" - " I was looked after by Harsha"!

  9. Hi!Speedy,
    I fully agree with you about your impression of Ashmore.
    His family life was a failure,sarcasm about the so called weaker student was intolerable.I,knew his brother in-law Bernard Seiman (Seaman),during the Medical student days."Bless" the new generation of Academics.You know very well,how friendly,the UK Academics are.There may be few exceptions.PC. Induruwa was a morose character as well.
    By the way,ProfD.E.Gonatilake's first name is very historical one."Dhanwantharee",a famous Irshi in Hindu mythology.

    Lucky!please correct me,if there is anything wrong.


  10. Hello!Lucky,
    I would like to elaborate,further into the origin of the name "Dhanwantharee".The name also implies a "Divine"medicine.I have heard the name "Dhanwantharee aushadha rajaya.I was told DEG's father was an Ayurvedic physician.I,am sure,he had divine vision,to name his sun Dhanwantharee,who reached the zenith in his Medical career.
    I have never met Prof.DEG.My friend Neil Halpe,from P e radeniya campus,had high regards for him.ProfDEG was a present at a wedding ceremony,held in a famous hotel in Colombo,late seventies,for which,I was invited.It was a doctor couple's,marriage(both were students of DEG)He was a witness to their Holy marriage.


  11. This better-late-than-never Zita, feeling a great satisfaction after reading the above account written by Dr Nalin Rodrigo who was the head of Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital where I spent a five year stint. His account is superb! What a wealth of information and naming of personalities of our medical service! These we knew as vague names being mentioned during our student days and now we are being enlightened on great things they did. I really mean that as facilities were not good as even we found them during the early days of our careers. So we have to be grateful to them and honour them for their service as a result of which we have the maternity services we now have. Dr Rodrigo was very good to me, when I stepped in to work at SJGH as a nervous new comer. He made me feel really at home and was available if I had any problems. While talking about him, I also fondly remember our own dear Suriyakanthi who gave me valuable advice at that time. She occupied a good position that time. We have to be proud of her. Thanks, to all concerned for this account and Luky for publishing it. This is the usually late Zita