Surgical team of seven look up at the camera during a procedure on an unseen patient’s arm.

It had been almost five years since an Interplast team last visited Sri Lanka and the enthusiasm was palpable during our recent trip this February.

Interplast CEO, Cameron Glover, and Director of International Programs, Jess Hill, were joined by two volunteers: Burns Nurse, Louise Higgine and Burns Surgeon Dr Dane Holden. Louise is an Interplast program veteran, but this was Dr Holden’s first trip with us. Both have extensive experience from the Burns Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, and were a perfect fit for this program.

Over five days, the team worked with staff from the National Hospital of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Health to understand the challenges the local health system faces in treating and managing burns.

Surgical team of seven look up at the camera during a procedure on an unseen patient’s arm.

Dr Holden and Dr Gayan working with other team members in the theatre of the Burns Unit at Colombo National Hospital.

Understanding the battle

Burns in Sri Lanka, like in many countries in South Asia, are a significant demand on the health system and the cause of needless suffering in the population. Since our last visit, it is clear that this burden is increasing.

Head of Unit and long-time Interplast partner, Dr Gayan Ekanayake, and staff of the Burns Unit, organised for the team to spend their week speaking with partners, reviewing hospital capacity and observing processes and procedures. Our volunteers were also able to deliver some immediate guidance and training to local staff.

Louise stands at the front of a room and speaks to a presentation showing illustrations of burn injuries. A large group of nurses are attuned to her.

Louise presenting a burns nursing seminar to nurses at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.

By the end of the week, 42 local staff from the Burns Unit and Plastic Surgery Department received training from our expert volunteers, in burns surgery, wound care and infection prevention. Dr Holden also assisted in theatre – mentoring surgery trainees and theatre nurses through two burns procedures.

“It has been a very successful trip with a good understanding of a range of issues that would help build the capacity of Burns Unit. Great engagement from the local team was admirable,” Dr Holden said of the experience.

Interplast’s future in Sri Lanka

This trip was incredibly insightful. The ability to reunite with our Sri Lankan partners has been essential to understanding their challenges and planning for how Interplast can provide the support they need.

“This visit, and these discussions, are going to be a game-changer for us, and how we manage our burns patients,” Dr. Gayan Ekanayake, told us.

With this assessment complete, the work begins to develop future programs; ongoing mentoring to local burns surgeons, nurses and allied health professions, and supporting leadership to improve referral processes and advocate for much needed facility improvements. We also hope to support the development of a national strategy for burns prevention, management and rehabilitation, to unite Sri Lanka in a shared approach.

We look forward to working alongside our Sri Lankan colleagues and partners in the coming years to reduce the burden of burns on the health system and improve outcomes for burns patients.


Interplast would like to thank the Rotary Clubs of District 9810 for making this program possible.