Community concern: SLES shows the way

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Md Rasooldeen | Arab News

Published — Saturday 16 January 2010

Last Update 16 January 2010 3:00 am

Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has praised a free medical clinic operated by the Sri Lankan Expatriates Society (SLES) in Riyadh, citing it as an example to be emulated by other organizations due to its benefit for the Sri Lankan community in the capital.

Ahmed Aflel Jawad called the clinic a success as he opened the brand new facility at the Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh. He said it was a testament to the “collective endeavor” of the community living in the Kingdom, which includes Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

Two years after SLES established itself in the capital, the free medical clinic was set up in June 1994 to serve Sri Lankans who needed medical attention.

Jawad, who became ambassador to the Kingdom a month ago, pointed out that the organization’s success is due to its willingness to give opportunities on its management committee to younger people, with more experienced members serving as their advisers.

The clinic was set up after Dr. Mohamed Shaheed, a pediatrician at the Security Forces Hospital, was treating fellow Sri Lankans at his Riyadh home.

Realizing the dire need for a formal medical clinic, he approached then SLES President Saifudeen Thassim, who had been a social worker since childhood, with an idea for a facility that would not only serve people who did not have access to medical facilities but also assist those who wanted a second opinion from a Sri Lankan doctor.

Thassim readily agreed, paving the way for the clinic’s establishment. Within a few months of it being set up, consultant physician at the SFH Dr. V. Sivasubramaniam also came on board. Today the clinic attracts a large number of Sri Lankans from a wide range of backgrounds, who attend medical consultations on Fridays. It offers variety of tests including ECG, blood pressure, glucose levels and others, conducted by doctors who are ably supported by a medical team and officials from the SLES.

As well as Dr. Shaheed, other doctors who serve the clinic include Qutinus Silva, Mohammed Altaf and Mohamed Haaris. They all work voluntarily. The clinic has witnessed an increase in the number of patients due to the recent improvements in its medical services, which also includes prescriptions for medicine.

Medicines, mostly the result of donations from kind-hearted Sri Lankans, are also given to needy patients. The clinic has an average intake of 60 patients, around half of them children, per week.

“Emergency patients are always accepted in preference to regular outpatients,” Dr. Shaheed said, adding that in addition to children, other common patients include drivers and housemaids seeking a second opinion.

The clinic sometimes procures medicines from Sri Lankan to treat patients in the Kingdom. On the advice of Dr. Sivasubramaniam, SLES brought in a substantial amount of drugs to treat common diseases such as malaria and filaria (a type of parasitic worm spread through mosquitoes). Medicines such as Primaquine and Hetrazan to treat these conditions, which are indigenous to Sri Lankans, were not available in the Kingdom.

The clinic is run with funds generated from SLES fundraising and donations from the local community. The Samba Financial Group’s SpeedCash Unit and its affiliate in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Bank, donated the ECG machine.

SLES hopes to expand its services with the support and assistance of Sri Lankan doctors who are able to volunteer their time.

There are several other professionals who devote their free time for the clinic, which provides a good opportunity for those from the medical sector to offer their services to the community.

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