The COVID-19 pandemic has opened new vistas for Sri Lanka in terms of elderly care and medical tourism sectors, the latter being a comparatively unexplored concept in the local tourist trade,” says Dr. Nilmini Withana, well-known professional in the elderly care services in the country. Dr. Withana is also the Founder-Chairperson of Western Health Care, a leading care home service enterprise in this field.
Elaborating on the concept of medical tourism, Dr. Withana was quick to point out the case of failure by so-called developing countries of the world to take appropriate medical precautions and care to tackle the unprecedented damage caused by COVID-19 in those countries, thereby sacrificing the worthy life of many thousands of their citizens. “A large majority of deaths and those affected due to coronavirus in Europe were senior citizens,” continued Dr. Withana, paying a glowing tribute to the Sri Lankan medical system. “This obviously proves that the medical systems in those countries were not sufficiently geared to confront such pandemics and face emergencies. Look at Sri Lanka. We are far superior and our medical systems are over and above world-class. Our enviable success can be fathomed by the fact that there were only nine deaths out of 900 patients down with the coronavirus. Even those few deaths occurred outside the quarantine centres and because they reported to those centres rather too late.” Dr. Withana, an expert in caring for the elderly for over 25 years now, is of the view that in our own Sri Lanka, opportunities are endless when it comes to aged care and medical tourism. “It is amazing,” she said, “that senior citizens in more developed countries have lost faith in their medical systems and are moving away from those countries focusing in Asia, where many countries have proven the efficacy of their medical systems, by spectacularly showing less death rates owing to coronavirus. Besides, the senior citizens in those countries are impressed that even the Asian culture as a whole is more amiable to them than that of their own, as in Asian countries, senior citizens draw much care, respect and fellowship in our communities.” Enriched with long term experience and equipped with knowledge gained through studies and surveys, Dr. Nilmini Withana advocates certain guidelines to launch medical tourism as a national concept. “At the outset, immigration laws to attract senior citizens of the world based on medical tourism phenomena have to be promoted. The government should popularise ‘Make Sri Lanka Your Home’ instead of ‘Make Sri Lanka Your Second Home’. Sri Lankan embassies have a major role to play in marketing this campaign.
Sri Lanka’s cost effectiveness in medical service provision and far superior all round medical facilities available will be major attractions to canvass foreign senior citizens to look at Sri Lanka as a formidable medical health resort.” As regards health resorts, Dr. Withana referred to her major project in the offing for Western Care Homes managed by Western Health Care Ltd., at a cost of over five hundred million rupees. “It is a BOI project we have designed in collaboration with international partners from Norway. Having all plans ready for launching it in March this year, we had to give way for the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have now re-scheduled our launching date. We acquired one acre of beautiful and environmentally sustainable plot of land in Nugegoda, where our ‘Senior Citizens Village and Wellness Centre’ will come up as an innovative complex comprising a five-storey building with 140 units of individual abodes and 20 luxury type villas plus many other facilities to be compatible with international standards found anywhere in the world. “There will also be a separate Care Giver Training Centre affiliated to a well-known UK Institute, which currently produces fully fledged Scientific Care Givers for American and European markets.” Western Health Care was founded 27 years ago and is the only ISO certified Care Home in Sri Lanka, with branches in Bambalapitiya, Pamankada, Kalubowila and Kohuwala, catering to locals as well as foreigners. For the unending unique social services carried out all these past years, and the immensely valuable elders care services rendered, Dr. Withana was honoured as the Sri Lankan Businesswoman (BWIO) of the year 2018, and was awarded Nelson Mandela Peace Award 2019, and was also selected as the Best CEO of the Year for the South Asia in Medical Tourism Sector in 2019 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.