Nordic Tamil healthcare professionals confer to help North East

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 December 2003, 22:35 GMT]
Nordic Tamil Medical Professionals came together for a conference to discuss the health issues facing the Tamil community in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The conference was held on 6th of December. Speakers were Doctors and Dentists from Norway and the United Kingdom who had returned to the North and East of Sri Lanka during 2003 to undertake a variety of health projects. The conference was organised by the Norwegian Tamils Health Organisation (NTHO).

Nordic Tamil Health Seminar
Mr. Eric Solheim
An audience of 70 medical professionals from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark attended. Local Norwegians also participated, with the talks being conducted in Tamil, Norwegian and English.

Mr. Erik Solheim, the envoy assigned to the peace process in Sri Lanka by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, gave the opening speech at the conference. He congratulated the health care personnel among the Tamil Diaspora for their active engagement in contributing to health care services in Sri Lanka.

Nordic Tamil Health Conference
Dr. Astrid N. Heiberg, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oslo, Norway
Dr. Astrid N. Heiberg, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oslo, Norway, in her speech shared her experiences in engaging Tamil and Sinhala women in a positive dialogue during her assignment as advisor to the Sub Committe on Gender Issues (SGI) in Sri Lanka. She, too, spoke on the health needs in the North East.

Dr. Sooriyakumar, a Surgeon from Sri Lanka, spoke on the challenges faced in the North East during the war.

Dr.Limalanathan of the Department of Internal Medicine at Gjøvik, Norway, and Dr. Shiamala Suntharalingam from the UK analysed the history of health care in the North East and discussed health care for the future.

Dr.Sivakanesan of Bergen, Norway, gave an introduction to the NTHO.

Dr. Bernard Shaw, a Surgeon at the University hospital, Oslo, Norway, spoke on the Health situation in the North East.

Mr. Are Eriksen of the Institute for international health at the University of Tromsø, Norway, spoke on his University's cooperation with Eastern University of Sri Lanka.

The participants shared their experiences of working in the North and East, the cases they saw and the problems facing the people in accessing adequate health care.

Nordic Tamil Health Seminar
A section of Tamil healthcare professionals who attended the conference

Presentations were made on mobile health camps that they took part in for remote villages and conducting both medical and dental clinics.

There are only two qualified dentists posted to Kilinochchi District Hospital, covering a population of approximately 150,000 people, and until recently no dental care was available. No dentist is available in the Mullaithivu district.

Many suffer from poor dentition and poor dental hygiene. By conducting the mobile health camps, dental health education was undertaken to villages and also dental care to those who required extractions and fillings. The medical clinics also combined optometry assessment, enabling people with poor sight to be issued appropriate glasses.

A presentation comparing the past, present and future health services of the North and East was made. It was noted by the audience that prior to the conflict the North and East had a very good health care system and indicators of health, such as infant and maternal mortality rates, were lower than in the South of the country. The physical effects of the war, the previous economic embargo from 1990 to 2002 which included basic medicines such as paracetamol and antibiotics, multiple displacement of people, the destruction of the infrastructure, as well as poverty increasing as a result of loss of fishing and farming jobs has all resulted in the poor state of health of the people of the North and East. The lack of medical staff including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, midwives, radiographers and facilities and equipment in hospitals keeps the health of the people in poor condition. Very little improvement in the health sector in the North and East has occurred since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in Feb 2002 and the large sums of money promised for developing the North and East.

A workshop was conducted and groups discussing developing Primary Care, Secondary Care and Medical Education and Training took place with the audience. Many have promised to help in a variety of ways to support projects in the North and East and a Medical Team is being formed to undertake health camps next year.

The organisers of the conference were very pleased with the response from the Medical Professionals and the positive input by the audience to return to the North and East of Sri Lanka to give their services in the near future.

Representatives from the Tamils Health Orgnisation (THO), a diaspora organisation based in the UK, also attended the event. THO is coordinating the contribution to the North East from the Tamil diaspora.

NTHO conducting training at a hospital in the North East Dental clinic ran by NTHO
Dr. S. Limalanathan from the Internal Medicin department of Gjøvik Hospital, Norway was on a NTHO training mission to North East earlier this year Dentist T. Sivakanesan from NTHO with the new mobile dental clinic visited 5 different locations in the North East providing treatment and training to local dentists and their assistents
Old dental unit before replacement Heka dental mobile unit
Old dental unit Danish produced Hekadental Mobile dental unit donated by NTHO
Norwegian Tamils Health Organistion donates mobile dental unit to North East Norwegian Tamils Health Organistion donates mobile dental unit to North East


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