World renowned US Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Jeremy R. Torstveit identified Sri Lanka as being on par with best in the world when it came to open heart surgery on children.
The two time Nobel Peace prize nominee on his 25th visit to the country attributed the success to selfless dedication and commitment by both local doctors and authorities.
In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Dr. Torstveit said the children s heart surgery has progressed beyond anything I could have imagined since my first visit to Sri Lanka in 1991 .
It now matches the very best programmes in the US and UK.
I would not hesitate to have my own child undergo heart surgery at the National hospital or other cardiac surgery units in the country, he said.
While acknowledging Child heart surgery as a barometer in gauging success in general cardiac surgery, Dr.Torstveit said the waiting period for a patient to undergo an operation had come down from more than an year sometime back to less than six months today.
Dr. Torstveit said his first visit to the country was the result of his close association with Dr. Dudley Halpe a Sri Lanka surgeon residing in US and had subsequently formed the Children s Heart Project (CHP), a non profit welfare organisation.
Since then the CHP has been instrumental in providing free training to Sri Lankan surgeons in addition to donating US $ 4.6 million worth of surgical equipment and instruments to Sri Lanka.
While acclaiming the commitment and skill of Sri Lankan surgeons as outstanding, Dr.Torstveit added that they were unsung heroes in the country s success in the field of heart surgery.
The public are not aware of their contribution and commitment , the doctor said adding that critics were quick to pounce on the slightest mistake but failed to highlight their dedication in saving lives.
These doctors could earn around 30 to 40 times more in the West than what they earn here but they willingly have sacrificed this chance to serve their countrymen he said adding that every single Lankan surgeon he trained in the US had returned to the country.
The same goes the Government which is pumping enormous sums to keep health standards at a very high level, he said.
The doctor made special mention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, and Colombo National Hospital Director Hector Weerasinghe as being in the forefront of sustained improvement.
He said a couple of years back, the President had sought his help to establish a fully fledged cardiac surgery unit in Kandy and later the facility had done its first 100 operations without a single fatality, which should go down as a record.
While adding that every year around 2000 new patients were being added to the list needing heart surgeries, he added that the cost of a single operation was over US $ 1,000 and the Government was pumping a lot of money without any hesitation including to buy the latest technical innovations.
As an appreciation of his service to the country, Dr. Torstveit has been appointed as a Honourary Consul of Sri Lanka in the United States.