Sri Lanka’s first paediatric palliative care centre

June 3, 2021 by Venessa Anthony , The Morning

The incidence of cancer is on the rise and the world has come to a stage where each and every person, at some point of time in their lives, has been touched by someone close to us – a relative, friend, or a colleague – who had suffered the effects of cancer. The Indira Cancer Trust hopes to see the world eradicated of such discrepancies.

In order to achieve their goal of a cancer-free world, and ease the suffering of patients, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed recently between Archio Design and Build and the Indira Cancer Trust to officially commence the work of “Suwa Arana – A Place For Healing”, a paediatric housing initiative and South Asia’s first paediatric palliative care centre.

Speaking to Brunch, Indira Cancer Trust Chairperson/Trustee Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya-Dissanayake, commenting on the importance of such a machine, said: “What makes Suwa Arana unique is its commitment to the families of children struck with cancer by providing them with lodging, food, and mental and emotional support that aims to help through this unbelievably challenging time.”

Both Archio Design and Build and the Indira Cancer Trust strongly believe that the strength of unity will make an immense contribution towards reducing the incidence of cancer in the country.

She also added that the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America (SLMANA) – Western Region supported this cause by donating Rs. 155 million to initiate this project. The total cost of the project is Rs. 425 million and the remaining funds must be raised within a year to open the doors of Suwa Arana to children and their families by 2023. Both organisations are excited about this partnership and confident that together a significant impact for cancer in Sri Lanka can be made. Archio Design and Build will be the first to launch Sri Lanka’s first paediatric palliative care centre, Suwa Arana.

In addition to palliative care, Suwa Arana also offers housing for families that travel from all over the island to find treatment for their cancer-stricken children at the Apeksha Hospital, Maharagama. The centre is located within walking distance from Apeksha Hospital and will provide room and board for the child and the family while treatment is in progress, which can take weeks or months, without the added burden of incurring the cost of accommodation and food.

Dr. Jayasuriya-Dissanayake explained that Suwa Arana will be a care centre for paediatric cancer patients and their families unlike any other facility in Sri Lanka. “This will be a centre for special end-of-life care for children, where the whole family can be together during this exceedingly difficult time. They are able to receive appropriate medical, nursing, emotional, and spiritual care that extends to provide a range of therapies including counselling, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, art and music therapy, and bereavement support that aims to comfort families during these trying times.”

Suwa Arana also aims to adopt a food kitchen philosophy of “home cooking” to encourage a feeling of having home comforts, and will include dietary variations. Dr. Jayasuriya-Dissanayake added that there will also be a play area for children and their families to enjoy their time together.

Speaking to us on the facilities the centre is to offer, she stated that the six-floor building will have a reception, dining room with patio, laundrette, and storage facilities. Going into further detail, she added: “Each floor allocated to patient care will have eight family ensuite rooms, each with two beds, a sofa bed, and access to a balcony. Some rooms have ‘moving walls’ in case larger families need to be accommodated. There will also be a single floor dedicated to all the operations of Indira Cancer Trust so that walk-in patients, both adult and paediatric, can also be supported through the many other services offered by the Indira Cancer Trust.”

The centre will also feature a rooftop garden where families can relax at a treetop level.

Commenting further on why such a project exists, Dr. Jayasuriya-Dissanayake stated that this is a necessary and brave initiative that they are proud to champion, and they sincerely hope that the public will support them in spreading this message so that it might reach the generous hearts of those who wish to work with them to make this a reality.