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Meet the Sri Lankan woman behind community clinics in UAE

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  • For over a decade, Sriya is the voice of the poor and marginalised at the hospital. She has helped poor patients avail free treatment, surgery, and also conducted marriages of orphans

http://www.khaleejtimes.com: War teaches you the greatest lessons of life. Growing up in Sri Lanka during the years of civil unrest taught Sriya Gopal the importance of love and humanity. Sriya, a kindergarten teacher, used to teach orphans and tend to war-affected children in Colombo.

7Sriya had a method to learn about the healthcare industry

And after marriage in 2005, she moved to the UAE and extended her helping hand to the poor and those in distress here.

Ahalia Medical Group Managing Director Dr. VS Gopal, as her better half, proved to be a blessing in her mission to serve others. For over a decade, Sriya is the voice of the poor and marginalised at the hospital. She has helped poor patients avail free treatment, surgery, and also conducted marriages of orphans.

“Coming from Sri Lanka, I took a few months to adjust in such a cosmopolitan city. I learned about the hospitals and the services they offered. My husband helped me throughout this phase,” the group director of community services said.

Sriya had a method to learn about the healthcare industry. 

“I studied all job requirements from the lower level positions to the top. It was after 10 years of service that I became the director of community services. And being in healthcare sector, I happened to face the harsh realities of life.”

It was her first visits to 18 medical centres in remote areas that became fodder for new initiatives. 

“At all those places, I found huge number of low-paid workers. All of them were poor and many needed specialised care but most had difficulty in communicating with doctors due to language barrier. I realised community clinics were a solution this problem.” 

Initiative benefitted many

It was at her behest that the Kabayan Clinic opened in the Capital. And it turned out to be a successful venture in catering to the needs of Filipinos. “Most of the cases used to be treated at the clinic itself and when required they would be referred to specialists. We had good feedback from patients.”

Later, exclusive clinics for Sri Lankans, Nepali and Bangladeshis were also started to give a feel of ‘home away from home’.

“We now have National clinic, only for locals,” she added.

Ahalia Medical Group has opened five community clinics and has further expansion plans, Sriya said.

She then remodelled free medical camp initiatives. “We hold camps every Friday at various places and I attend all of them. I get feedback from patients on various aspects. The remodelling we had concentrated more on problems that happen due to busy lifestyle. There was a need for more health awareness than just running a camp. People, especially labourers, don’t know about ill-effects of unhealthy diet. My focus was to create awareness in this regard. So our doctors started giving them tips on those too. We also had specialist doctors in camps.”

Monthly medical camps

The hospital has some 25 to 30 monthly medical camps. “We not only cover labour accommodation but also corporates, embassies, cultural associations and clubs.”

This year, Ahalia group has opened four medical centres and more new ones are planned - all of which are in remote areas. “No amount of clinics is enough. We need to reach as many poor people as possible. None should be left without needed healthcare. Even if they can’t afford, we will treat them.”

Sriya has ensured that no poor patient is left untreated due to lack of money or insurance card. “We have even arranged air tickets for many expats to return home.” Sriya finds great resonance in the hospital’s motto ‘Caringly Yours’.


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