17 January, 2022


Moolai Hospital Jaffna – Reaching For New Vistas

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Plumbing new ground, embracing bold initiatives, sustaining effort amidst adversities and bouncing back even after grave situations, have remained a hallmark of the Jaffna man’s attributes. The vicissitudes of Moolai Hospital epitomize these characteristics. Commenced in 1935 as the first Cooperative Hospital in the country, it developed at high speed attracting attention of medical professionals, drawing a multitude of patients from the North and prospering as well.

Fulsome Praise

In the early fifties, there was a news item quoting V. V. Giri from a speech he made in India. Therein he said that the co-operative movement was highly developed in Ceylon and particularly in Jaffna. He stated pointedly that there was even a well-run cooperative hospital in Jaffna. It was a reference to Moolai Hospital. Giri served as the first Indian High Commissioner in Ceylon during 1948 to 1951. He was President of India 1969 to 1974. He had observed the growth of the cooperative movement in Ceylon. His insight on Jaffna was sharp. Moolai Hospital had caught his attention and prompted a keen remark. The accolade was well merited.

Dr. N. T. Sampanthan and Moolai Hospital were one

Dr. N. T. Sampanthan and Moolai Hospital were one


The institution built with motives that were altruistic, was envisaged as a non-profit taking venture with benefits accruing to society. It is this hospital which is now on the threshold of setting its sights high. What were its origins? In 1934 a group of socially minded individuals in Jaffna outlined a project for a hospital to be established along cooperative lines. Well known among them was a great cooperator V. Veerasingham, who was Principal of Manipay Hindu College and later the MP for Vaddukkoddai 1952 -1956. Veerasingham Hall a part of the Cooperative Federation complex and a landmark in Jaffna is named after him. Last month the Postal Department issued a stamp honouring his services to the cooperative movement and siting his contribution to establishing the Moolai Hospital.

American Missionaries

Moolai was aptly chosen to site the hospital. It is located a mile away from Jaffna College, Vaddukkoddai founded by American Missionaries in 1823. Manipay 5 miles away from Moolai was another great centre of health care. Dr. Green a great American Missionary founded this hospital in 1848 and also established the first Medical School in Ceylon. A School of Nursing too developed alongside at Manipay Hospital. Under the benign patronage of American Missionaries, education and health care developed apace. In the same cradle, Moolai too grew reaching the status for a private Medical College to be recognized in the eighties.

Specialists and Their Dedication

Medical men of repute and commitment came over to the Hospital. Dr. Chacko from Kerala who had his early career at Manipay and was well known in Jaffna moved over to Moolai. In 1946 it was Moolai’s destiny to have had the dedicated services of Dr. N. T. Sampanthan FRCS, who was an honours graduate from the first batch of the University of Ceylon. He and the hospital were one and the hospital owed much of its growth and popularity to him. Patronage increased, hospital expanded into a complex of buildings small and large, even as services were diversified with several specialisms. Very many specialists from the General Hospital Jaffna – later Teaching Hospital – lent their services. The setting up of a private Medical College in 1985 was official acknowledgement of the quality of services. Disruptions of war and continuing turmoil in the eighties and nineties created an interregnum of stagnation and limited services.

Moolai Hospital, Jaffna District

Moolai Hospital, Jaffna District

A Glimmer with Ceasefire and Resurgence in 2003

The ceasefire of February 2002 ushered in by Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was then Prime Minister was a good augury to unfurl a programme of redevelopment. In the decade that followed, enthusiasts in Sri Lanka as well as UK, USA and Australia made their contribution. Besides individuals, were private sector establishments, British High Commission, USAID and NGOs. The hospital management engaged the services of M. Retnasingham a reputed public servant who had retired from Jaffna Kachcheri. Subsequent to the ceasefire, he drew up a programme for the ‘Restoration of Moolai Hospital’. The funds that flowed over the years reached a total of Rs. 79 million which helped in resuscitation of facilities and bringing the patients treated in a year to 44,000.

Change in Governance and Fresh Initiatives – Post 2015

The country has seen a sea change since January 2015. A shift of power at the helm and a change on ground in the North have inspired a new confidence to set a fresh direction to the people there. It has manifested in a mood for renewal and a new beginning for Moolai Hospital. First in point of time are plans to mobilize finances for renovating buildings, updating equipment, modernizing facilities and to diversify services.

Apace with the above are efforts already launched to develop a Hospital automation software system for:

  1. Stock Management for the Hospital Pharmacy
  2. Electronic Patient Management for Outpatients Clinic
  3. Centralized Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
  4. Billing and Reports

Funded by US Tamils, Vetri Holdings, a limited liability company is undertaking this assignment. The software written by Jaffna based software engineers is named arogya.life. This will document demography of patients, diagnosis, history of clinical investigations on patients and treatment plan from past visits. This software a first of its kind in the Northern Province will enhance the institution’s efficiency.

What the Future Beckons

Men of medicine and others of vision, both inland and outside have now set out to take the hospital to unprecedented heights. The diaspora spread across several climes will join in planning out the physical requirements of infrastructure. Among them modern equipment and custom built structures to house them will command precedence. As for human resources, they are very much in place. It is likely that expatriates from the Diaspora, will bring greater modernity together with their services. Para medics an integral part of health care will be trained in house.

What may be discerned from the above account is that improved services on a wider scale would inevitably demand expanding land capacity and blossoming medium rises. Thinking high involves high finances. Building a good treasury is within the resource capacity of the beneficiary community and the investor segments of the Diaspora. If co-operative laws are found inadequate or outmoded or constricting, new ground needs to be plumbed. Limited Liability venture may have alluring prospects for the investor community. A Tamil classic says “There is nothing faulty in the old yielding place to the new. It is but a need of the times”.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    It is not an unlikely task to link all medical records of medical institution including Path lab services, in N.E. For that Health care should become under the provincial administration. What we need is a centralized modern pathology Laboratory, radiology and investigative services with collection centers and collection network for a quick and efficient health care. We urgently need a medical equipment repair and training center too which could render services at a subsidised rates .
    Please Do not forget about Vallai coop hospital and other structures that were existing in Vallai.

    • 2

      I am very grateful to Moolai Hospital and Dr Chako:

      (I wonder what happened to this then famous Malayalee doctor), who treated me for kidney disease when I was a toddler and hospitalized for several days there.

      That was about seven decades ago.

      Long live Moolai Hospital and its cooperative spirit at the service of the people of Jaffna.

      • 0

        dear Thiru
        Dr.Chacko is now dead. Poor man.Bensen

  • 2

    The Jaffna Co-operative Stores was also another success story for the co-operative movement in the country, especially in Jaffna. Unfortunately it had to be liquidated owing to the war situation.
    Sengodan. M

    • 0

      Dear Sengodan,
      The Jaffna Co-0perative store was never a co-operative society. It was registered as a private company. Bensen

  • 2

    The Nature of Chandrikathsan is, even if it is developed by Tamils, he has to praise his masters as they are one doing it.

    Once, there a thief was climbing on a coconut tree to pluck coconuts. Accidentally the estate own had come there and he shouted hey who you are, what are you doing. The thief changed his course and started to come down. For the estate owner’s question he replied he was looking for some grass for his calf which was hungry for some days. The owner asked how he is going to find grass on a coconut tree. The thief kept talking to keep the owner cool. So he replied that is why he was coming down, but the strange thing there was, it is the owner couldn’t find out why the thief was coming down. It might have taken couple of minutes for the owner to think for his next question. Grabbing that opportunity, the thief ran away.

    There is accusation that UNP Ministers are trying to hijack the Economic Zone that is earmarked for Northern Province. So, The Minister Harrison has submitted Papers at ministry to have it moved to Madawachchi. When he was asked why he did that, he replied that he wanted to push the NPC to decide the location quickly. Well, the location was given to the ministry. Within the NP, the minister wants to promote his own agenda. So he has rejected the location given to him. When the CM was not cooperating to that secret scheme, they want to break in the CM and force him to kneel down. They set splits in NPC. When they were success in all that and after having the made the CM to give up his position, ministry papers were submitted to move the economic zone to Madawachchi. It was at this point the minster was questioned about his initiation. It is there he replied he wanted to push the NPC to make a decision quick. Anti-Tamil Rishard is partner in these tricks. What kind coconut thieves are these ministers? They are ones this Chandrikathan is parsing for the Moolai Hospital.

    “The country has seen a sea change since January 2015. A shift of power at the helm and a change on ground in the North have inspired a new confidence to set a fresh direction to the people there. It has manifested in a mood for renewal and a new beginning for Moolai Hospital. First in point of time are plans to mobilize finances for renovating buildings, updating equipment, modernizing facilities and to diversify services.” . What a chronic case is this Chanrikathasan, keep parsing the Sinhala Governments without having a sense. He is parsing the originator of these, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias as somebody above Lenin, because he brought a communist revolution to Lankawe without blood. But he is the one spilled Tamils’ blood in 1958 by Sinhala Only. A lunatic case the Chandrikathasan, thinking Tamil blood is not blood, if the Sinhala Blood spilled only it would have a revolution with blood.

    His iron house project to Northern refugees is still keeps going. He is a brother of Izeth Hussein.

  • 6

    Great plans. I hope they succeed, and that their services will be available at a low-cost for the lower economic classes, and not just for the rich and elite.

    good luck!

  • 8

    Thank you for providing informative article.

    I visited hospitals and old age care homes and understood we need to work hard to provide more development to Jaffna. Lots of our people do not understand that people in Jaffna also need to participate in the main stream of development and facilities available in colombo also needs to be provided to citizens of Sri Lanka in Jaffna.

    Now lot of tamils in Jaffna have moved to colombo earlier and continuing to move since our facilities are not up to date. Medical care, security and employment facilities are key factors.

    American missionaries from Boston have provided us from 1820 english education, western medical facility and access to excellent buildings. We have Manipay Hospital for example. These places have been forgotten and the buildings are falling apart. Manipay Hospital still has the original old beds and it is good that a revival is taking place. These are now Jaffna peoples assets and needs to be maintained and protected. Colombo has gone in different ways to maintain example the dutch hospital has become a tourist place to visit and eat crabs.

    What are we doing in Manipay and Inuvil Hospital ? if we do not maintain the hospitals we may not have any buildings left in 30 years to come only a place for mosquitos.

    I googled vetri holdings and found this company has created employment for 15 people, this is good news for Jaffna. We need these kind of initiatives.

    I also think we could automate medical care more in Jaffna, since we have less people in Jaffna than before, less qualified resources. I understood we lack qualified nurses etc. to maintain proper services to people.

    Old people are facing great difficulties since village family structure is changed, difficulty to find resources for help and here we need to develop automated solutions. Remember in 30 years quarter of Jaffna society will be over 60 years.

    We also need to find solutions for unskilled resources, they also need employment and satisfactory living.
    I hope to hear more about solutions for our problems in Sri Lanka.

    The tamil issue is not the main problem or Majority ruling.. Our core problems need solutions. The same co problems are also faced in South of Sri Lanka. Youth are moving from villages to cities finding employment, and
    old people and Children are effected. I believe in development in Villages should come by individuals and co-operatives. Here we need evangelist like Boston American with new ideas and momentum to make a change in peoples life. We are talking about new generation evangelist in IT – Technology and investment.

  • 0


    “As for human resources, they are very much in place. It is likely that expatriates from the Diaspora, will bring greater modernity together with their services.”

    Sorry to say that I disagree with you. I doubt the quality of the existing human resources and I don’t think that Diaspora will offer their services very much,

  • 2

    The co-operative movement was highly developed in Jaffna.

    why “was”, Why not”is” and “will”?

    The Micro enterprises and other SMEs could be organised as cooperatives for better results.

    The downfall of cooperatives began with the 1972 Acts on Cooperatives and comparative employees commissions.

    The Acts centered around multi-purpose cooperative societies MPCS.

    The MPCS had NOW become redundant. Be far sighted, abolish them

    The cooperatives in Jaffna is now centered around consumer cooperatives, it is high time to shift the attention towards productive cooperatives

    The Northern Provincial Council should bring in new statutes with this aim rather than copying other provincial council’s statutes.

    Be innovative and add value!

  • 11

    Thank you for the article. We have been in the ground working with limited resources. I hope this article would help us to bring more resources to develop the institutions like Moolai.

    I think this could be a good example, which could able to survive even during the peak of the war. Of course, most of the buildings were damaged during the war especially in the latter part of eighties to mid nineties. Reactivation process was started in early part of 2002. I started to work with the Co-operative Hospital Moolai from 2003. Hospital started to provide 24 hour services to the community from 2004 with the support of foreign governments, international and local NGOs and the charities run by the various expatriate organizations in UK, USA, Canada, Europe and Australia.

    Good part of it that the hospital is providing services for low and affordable cost. Hospital is owned by the community. Anybody living there can become the member of the hospital by pay paying just 100 Sri lankan rupees (lower than one US dollar). Community hospital owned and managed by the community. We all know that the health expenditure has been increasing over the year. World big economies are struggling to provide the high quality of care for affordable cost with good coverage.

    Sri Lanka like countries with the delicate economy and fast aging population need good sustainable alternative health financing structure to support the state health services. We can’t completely leave our patients in the hands of private sector people. The models like Moolai, Manipay and other similar kind of ventures must be encouraged.Our predecessor had the great vision developed these institutions. Our duty is to strengthening these institutions and also develop more such institutions to cater the present needs in whole war affected areas.
    I am also attaching few links for the readers to see the initiatives by few well wishers to bring back the high quality health care system.


  • 1

    Sri Lanka is far behind in health care, but top class care is costly.
    The first fully Digital Hospital in North America has been opened in Toronto, Canada.


    We have many years to go to this level, but with dedicated staff, we can deliver.

  • 7

    Having spent over 5 months in the last 8 months in the Northern Province (I am an Australian Professional Diaspora), and scanning the digital media with local news and views I am putting forward a couple of points to ponder. Lifting our people from the decades of collective traumas must be all our goal. Each should do whatever within our means. Unfortunately some are preoccupied with dishing out judgement and seeking limelight by claiming moral high ground.

    There are doers and there are commentators and unfortunately some of the commentators commitment to humanitarian services ends in the three minutes they take to attack someone or some project with a few key strokes on the computer. Post war recovery is a complex matter especially when we have to deal with people psychologically affected by the war and the skills needed to do the work have all disappeared.

    The institutions that are functioning such as the Moolai hospital are our community asset, with all its deficiency. Let us not deny the women, children and elderly from access to health services (44,000 people). Re-instituting this great hospital is a mammoth task especially doing it during the most difficult of circumstances.

    If you want to lift the standard of Moolai hospital just say what you are going to do, if you want better building just say what you are going to do, if you want better medical care just say what you are going to do etc etc..Dont just say what the others should do.. it will be disheartening to the few who are doing something the best way they can.

    Currently there is space for many to join in and assist this great institution from here to greater heights..whatever you want this to become.

    Co-op system and the laws governing it is outdated and limits the progress of institutions , however, this system is being actively looked at by many key people to make it an enabler of co-operative ventures and initiatives and expect it to be done soon instilling fresh vigour.

  • 7

    Development entails many dimensions and it often boils down to good education leading to sustainable employment resulting in solid entrepreneurs staging platforms and then completing the circle back again by generating employment and thereby demanding an educational system to provide satisfactory supply of work force. It was a golden opportunity to those young software professionals (many of them recent graduates from Jaffna) who are working on building arogya.life -product by Vetri holdings (www.vetriholdings.com). These engineers are second to none and more importantly hungry for challenges, looking to build more world class products. Some guidance and lots of encouragement will go a long way to make them a real force in the market.

  • 4

    Mr Sivathasan has recollected for us the best times of the cooperative movement, particularly in Jaffna District, since the 1930s. Many of the families benefitted from the institutions that were created by this movement. The old, effectively operated institutions, are now in poor shape, but still offering some much needed services to the local communities. Moolai Hospital is one of them.

    I am a retired professional living in the UK and had worked in a number of countries, developed as well as developing. I spent much of my time in north and east Sri Lanka during 2003-06, helping the local institutions to reconstruct damaged / destroyed infrastructure. Since September 2015 I have been here four times and have spent over 100 days, helping to improve the local natural and human resources as well as introducing improved practices and appropriate technologies to enhance livelihood for those who aspire to have better lives. Most of this is directed towards the underprivileged group, the female-headed households.

    The current need for improved health facilities for those living in the North is enormous. I have inspected the available infrastructure and facilities at Moolai Hospital. The structures need urgent facelift. Additional buildings and facilities have to be provided early, cost-effectively and through thorough planning. The improved and additional buildings and facilities together would provide a good alternative to the much crowded Jaffna Teaching Hospital and the very poorly staff other government medical institutions there. In addition, the hospital could train medical support staff, such as nurses, medical equipment operators, physiotherapists and laboratory technicians as well as administrative assistants. These trained persons would have improved their livelihood potentials.

    I very much hope that the friends of the Moolai Hospital would work hard to provide the above support to the hospital. The distractors and spoilers should be ignored.

    Param Paramanathan

    • 0


      Thank you for your comment and what you have done.

      “The improved and additional buildings and facilities together would provide a good alternative to the much crowded Jaffna Teaching Hospital and the very poorly staff other government medical institutions there.”

      You are correct. Many others also have taken up the need for Moolai hospital. My main question is can most of the people in the area afford to use the services of the hospital? Moolai Hospital and the other private hospitals in Sri Lanka do not offer services free of charge.

      Does the average villager have enough money to pay for a specialist doctor, examinations and medicine at Moolai Hospital?

      To what extent are specialist doctors, examinations and medicine available in Moolai?

  • 3

    Mr. Sivathasan has given a synopsis of the history and Dr Suren Surendiran has outlined the medical work of the Moolai Cooperative Hospital. I had the pleasure of meeting him and learn of his work in the Community Medicine department of the Univ of Jaffna Faculty of Medicine. His work to reconstruct the work of the war damaged Moolai Coop Hospital (MCH) buildings and equipment damage due to lack of repairs, in 2002 is commendable. The doctors and specialists from the Jaffna Teaching Hospital who visit the MCH provide their services at the nominal cost th MCH charges. Such service is convenient for people within 5 to 10 mile radius so they dont have to travel to Jaffna town and stand in long lines or visit expensive private hospitals. Some doctors provide their services in Jaffna through private clinics outside the hospitals, often after 4 pm at affordable cost for those in and around Jaffna.

    The MCH was established by Malayan Pensioneers and their photographs hangs in the main lobby. One of them was an uncle of the Maharajah Org’s current generation. They contributed, among others, to the restoration to recommence the services from the subsistence level functioning during the war years when there was an embargo on the Northern Province since 1990. In the Fifties and sixties when MCH was at its services were at Peak, I remember eye surgeon Pararajasegaram was visiting eye surgeon performing Cataract surgery.

    Visitors can see the Stones laid by D.S. Senanayaka, in 1939, by the Governor Monck Moore, the visiting Government Ministers including SWRD who was head of the Local Government department. My visit to MCH in 2002 and in later years was at the request of the Tamil diaspora Medical Community to observe the work of the MCH.
    The MCH has a Mobile service to monitor the health and provide services to those who are not able to visit the hospital. It also trains nurses, nurses aides and embarking on training Para Medics which can serve the community best.There are Tamil private philanthropist who provide funding for community health services such as screening for diabetes and clinical services.The NorthEast Province had also helped the MCH during the 2003 Peace Talk period.
    Many of the buildings need repair and refurbishing.

    Cooperative hospital such as MCH need to be encouraged in all parts of the country especially the rural areas of the war affected North and East.

  • 0

    Thanks for all who take interest in Moolai Cooperative Hospital. My father & lot of our relatives were members of this Hospital, but we are unable to continue the membership as we do not have the membership numbers. When I approached the Administration during 2004, they told me that they do not have the details of the original members. If we get the membership, we also can get involved in thr development of the Hospital. Umapathy from Chulipuram.

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