Development of the Medico-Legal Unit at District Base Hospital, Puttalam

After assuming duties as the Consultant JMO of the District Base Hospital, Puttalam, Dr. Sriyantha Amararatne took the initiative of developing a new JMO’s office and a mortuary complex at the hospital since the facilities to perform medico legal duties were virtually non-existent at the hospital. This project is an excellent example of team work and multidisciplinary staff working collaboratively to enhance the core values of caring compassion and courtesy and an excellent guide to improve the standards of medico-legal system in a provincial health institution in Sri Lanka.

Following developments and activities were conducted at the medico-legal unit in the process;

  1. The office rooms of the Consultant, Medical officers and Minor staff was properly partitioned and named. The whole office was air-conditioned. Direct telephone line, Fax machine, 35 GB internet router, extension lines for all rooms, photocopy machines, desktop computers, D7200 camera, CX31 Olympus microscope and new furniture were provided. Two refrigerators were purchased by the funds provided by Provincial Ministry of Health. David Pieris Motor Company Ltd. had generously donated two hot and cold-water dispensers, including water bottles.
  2. Action was taken to appoint three Medical Officers (Medico-Legal) to the JMO’S office, District Base Hospital, Puttalam.
  3. One-day workshop on ‘Sexual Abuse Identification, Management and Prevention’ was conducted for 250 government officers in Puttalam district including medical officers of the peripheral hospitals. A book written by Dr. Sriyantha Amararatne, Prof. Muditha Vidanapathirana, Dr. Swarna Wijetunga and Dr. Buddhi Jayasekara on ‘Identification, Management and Prevention of Sexual abuse’ was launched on the same day and the book was distributed to all participants. The total cost for printing the book and the lunch for the participants were sponsored by the David Pieris Motor Company Ltd. The funds for other expenses were provided by the RDHS, Puttalam.
  4. Conducting clinical case conferences and institutional case conferences for the victims of child sexual abuse was started and funds were allocated for the needed expenses.
  5. 24 hours’ medico-legal service at the District Base hospital, Puttalam was established, including night on call roster with 3 medical officers.
  6. Renovation of the old mortuary was done and new wash rooms were built at the old mortuary for doctors and minor staff. Provision of furniture, purchasing postmortem instruments and air-conditioning of the renovated mortuary was done by the funds provided by the Provincial Ministry of Health.
  7. A locally made 16 body capacity cooler was established in a separate building closer to the renovated old mortuary with the funds provided by the Provincial Ministry of Health.
  8. The preparation of postmortem histopathology slides was commenced with the help of Pathology Laboratory of District Base Hospital, Puttalam and reporting all slides was done by the Consultant JMO.
  9. A road was developed from the entrance of the hospital to the mortuary, and it was paved with interlocking blocks. The ‘Maga Neguma’, Rural Road Development Programme of Ministry of Higher Education & Highways, and the Provincial Ministry of Health funded the road development work by, each providing rupees one million.

The next phase of development of the unit was undertaken with building of the new Mortuary Complex with a fund of rupees 15 million allocated by the Line Ministry of Health. The construction was supervised by the Provincial Ministry of Health and was completed within 2 years. The new Mortuary Complex consists of;Reception area.

  1. Duty room for doctors.
  2. Cooler room.
  3. 4 Dissection Rooms-High risk autopsy room, autopsy room for Murders, autopsy room for Decomposed bodies, autopsy rooms for Natural deaths and RTA.
  4. Laundry room.
  5. Store room.
  6. Washing room.
  7. X-ray room.
  8. 4 changing rooms.
  9. Identification area.

With a further fund of rupees 10 million provided by the Line Ministry of Health, several imported mortuary items were purchased. The supervision of purchasing and installing of the items were done by the Provincial Ministry of Health. The purchased items were;A cooler with 6 body capacity (purchased through Access International Pvt. Ltd.)

  1. 4 mortuary tables.
  2. 4 stainless steel trolleys .

The total cost of development of the new mortuary with coolers, tables and trolleys amounted to rupees 25 million provided by the Line Ministry of Health.
The culmination of those projects are examples of how different organizations can work together to improve the medico-legal system in the country; though it is a very strenuous and tiresome endeavor.  Dr. Sriyantha Amararatne, his staff and the collaborating organizations had showed such leadership and identified the existing needs and drove the projects through to completion to develop a space where they could continue to provide support to patients and families of the deceased persons in a caring and pleasant environment.
Dr. Amararatne, greatly appreciates and expresses the gratitude to the following individuals who immensely helped him to achieve his target of developing the Medico-Legal Unit at District Base Hospital, Puttalam; Dr. P. G. Maheepala, Former Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health.

  • Mr. Gunawardena, Deputy Director General (Logistics), Ministry of Health.
  • Mr. Wendaruwa, Hon. Minister of Health, North-Western Provincial Ministry of Health.
  • Mr. Wickramasinghe, Secretary of Health, North-Western Provincial Ministry of Health.
  • Dr. Fareed, Provincial Director of Health, Vayamba.
  • Dr Paul Ranjith, RDHS, Puttalam.
  • Mr. Jagath Gunasekara, Accountant- RDHS Office, Puttalam.
  • Dr. Ashok Perera and Dr. Sumith Attanayaka, Medical Superintendents, BH, Puttalam.
  • Dr. Ravindran, Dr. Shane Jayasundara, Dr. Charith Perera and Dr Buddika Witharana (Medical Officers-Medico Legal), JMO’S office, BH , Puttalam.
  • Miss. Swarna (Health care assistant) and Messrs. Mahinda, Janaka and Nimal (Mortuary assistants), BH Puttalam.

We in the medico-legal fraternity in Sri Lanka also congratulate all those who have supported and enabled this work to be completed.