The Contribution to the Health Sector
The de Soysas made a pioneering contribution towards the development of the health sector of the country. Most notable perhaps was the contribution towards infant-maternal care and the measures introduced to curb infant mortality.
The De Soysa Maternity Hospital was established as the Lying-In-Home in 1879. It is the oldest Maternity Home to have been gifted in Asia, a year after the first one that was built by the British Colonial Government in India and a year before another endowed by an Indian Maharaja.
Interestingly, one of the five original buildings had been a childhood home of Charles Henry de Soysa, the founder.
His ambition of treating both the native and European expectant mothers and babies together had been initially resisted by the hospital authorities, but was subsequently adopted.
The Country's infant-maternal health care record has been one of the best in Asia, if not the world.
Nearly half a century earlier, in the 1830's, Charles Henry de Soysa's father, the Ayurveda physician Jeronis de Soysa built up a reputation for treating immigrant Tamil labourers during the early years of the Ceylon coffee industry, when access to such medical care was largely unavailable. Much has been written about the plight of these labourung classes, with respect to their working conditions, social conditions placed upon them by society (both traditional and plantation) and the susceptibility to epidemics. The amount of lives saved by the physician is a matter known perhaps only to the Gods.
Babasingha Vedhamahathaya's clients included natives as well as European and he becomes a much appreciated figure in the Kandyan region for his medical acumen and charming personality, even by a famous 'outlaw' by the name of Saradiel.
On his visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1886, Charles de Soysa gave liberally to 20 major hospitals including the Guys Hospital London, Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, Seamen’s Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital
The Medical Research Institute of Sri Lanka was established as the Bacteriological Institute Colombo in 1897. Built and endowed by JWC de Soysa (Gate Mudaliyer), it has rendered an invaluable service to the nation in conducting scientific investigations of diseases.
The world-renowned Dr. Aldo Castellani was the long-term Director of the Bacteriological Institute (MRI) who conduced research in mycology and bacteriology, describing several new species of intestinal bacilli and invented the absorption test for the serological identification of closely allied organisms.
The family went on to build many more hospitals, including the Panadura, Moratuwa and Marawila hospitals and were prime benefactors of the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital, Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Ingiriya, Galle and Kandy hospitals.
Dr. HM Fernando was the first Consultant Physician to be appointed to the General Hospital Colombo. He was the founding Director of the Bacteriological Institute, Chemical Examiner to the Government, Superintendent of the De Soysa Maternity Home and Registrar of the Ceylon Medical College. He is credited for the observation that diabetes was more common among the affluent Ceylonese.
Dr. WH de Silva - Pioneer ophthalmologist was the first Senior Surgeon in charge of the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital and was responsible for raising funds to establish that institution. He is known to have worked without a salary at the Eye Hospital Colombo.
Prof. CC de Silva was the first Professor of Paediatrics in Sri Lanka and the first Head of the Department of Paediatrics, University of Ceylon. He founded the Department of Paediatrics Colombo in 1960 and Peradeniya in 1964.
Dr. de Silva is also credited as the pioneer of clinical nutrition in Sri Lanka.