A top medical doctor with vast experience in medical administration and an impeccable service record as a military medical officer has been appointed new Secretary to Ministry of Health at this crucial time to spearhead the battle against dreaded COVD19 pandemic. Major General Sanjeewa Munasinghe, the Director General of Army Health Services, who assumed duties at the Ministry of Health last week has a proud record of performing amputation and other surgeries sometimes under a shade of a tree in the battlefields in the North during most parts of the 30 year old war and formulating medical policy for the armed forces medical corp.

Major General Munasinghe was the Director General of Army Health Services, and President of Sri Lanka College of Military Medicine and Colonel Commandant of Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps. He also served as Consultant Radiologist at the Army Hospital.

A brilliant student of Ghnaodaya Vidyalaya – Kalutara and Thissa Vidyalaya – Kalutara, Sanjeewa Munasinghe joined the medical faculty in 1978 successfully competing with most privileged students of premier schools in the island.

This patriotic youth, served as a medical doctor at hospitals in Galle and Badulla before voluntarily joining the army when there was an urgent requirement of young doctors to treat the wounded soldiers in the battlefields in the North and the East in 1986. “When the war intensified, there was an imperative need for Army doctors and I decided to join,” he said. The doctors were sent immediately to the front where they had to perform even surgeries under the shade of a tree. He recalled that they had to perform amputations, ICT insertions, tracheotomy, arresting bleeding and many such surgeries.

Dr Munasinghe was also actively involved in the field during the Vadamarachchi Operation, in which Brigadier Denzil Kobbekaduwa was the Field Commander. “That was an unforgettable experience. Amidst gunfire and shellfire we had to treat the wounded soldiers”.

When the Indian troops were deployed, the military operations of Sri Lankan army were ceased and Dr Munasinghe utilized the time for his post graduate studies. After completing MD at the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine he went to Australia on a fellowship to study Interventional Neuro-Radiology. He also did further studies at Oxford University in UK and Maryland University in USA.

While he was employed in Australia, the second face of conflict in Sri Lanka began in 1995 and Dr Munasinghe volunteered to come back to serve the Motherland once again. He was appointed Commanding Officer at Military Hospital in the following year and he was entrusted with all medical planning during the military operations. At the same time, Dr Munasinghe continued to make field visits to operation areas.

Recognizing the invaluable services rendered, he was promoted to the rank of Major General in 2009.

During his Military Career he was awarded with a number of decorations and awards includes Rana Wickrama Padakkama, Rana Sura Padakkama, Vishishta Seva Vibhushana, Uththama Seva Padakkama, East Humanitarian Operation Medal, North Humanitarian Medal, Poorna Bhoomi Padakkama, North and East Operation Medal, Wadamarachchi Operation Medal, Riviresa Campaign Medal, 50th Independent Anniversary Medal, Sri Lanka Army 50th Anniversary Medal and Sri Lanka Armed Service Long Service Medal.

In the following year, he was made the Colonel Commandant of Sri Lanka Army Medical Corp. In 2012, Maj Gen Munasinghe was appointed as first Director General Army Hospital Services and also DG of Technical Operations.

At this crucial hour of combating the most dangerous COVID19 pandemic, the Health Secretary will have a vital role to play and it is befitting that a person with vast experience in medicine as well as medical policy and administration has been appointed to the post. Maj Gen Munasinghe said that his fist task would be to attend to important issues such as ensuring sufficient supply of medicine, deployment of medical personnel, including paramedics and taking speedy action to minimize shortages in medicine and medical personnel. “What is essential is to educate the people about maintenance of social distancing after the lifting of lockdown. Health personnel and Security Forces will do everything possible to combat COVID-19. However, for absolute success, the cooperation of the people is essential”.