Health is a priority for the government of Sri Lanka, but there are great differences between services in the major towns and the more rural areas. There is a shortage of nurses and paramedics and although the health service is free, this is becoming harder to sustain.
In addition, heart conditions, cancer and pesticide poisoning all cause many deaths each year and traffic accidents lead to numerous hospital admissions.
However, there has been a steady improvement over recent decades, particularly in maternal and infant mortality, and life expectancy.
The focus for the team from Evelina Hospital is on congenital heart disease, which are defects of the heart that occur during the formation of the heart before birth and the major blood vessels.
These children are born with these defects - it’s not their fault that they are born with them
In Sri Lanka around 2,000 -2,500 children are born every year with heart defects and around 1,400 -1,600 of them will need operations.
Heart surgery, especially in children, is a demanding, highly specialized and a difficult specialty in medicine. It is also very expensive because of the cost of setting up a high-tech operating theatre and the intensive care unit, plus the heart-lung machine and the artificial lung, which is used to stop the heart during surgery.
This is why the visits by the Evelina Hospital team, taking their expertise to Sri Lanka to carry out operations and save dozens of lives every year, is so vital.