Overview & History

De Soysa Lying-in-Home (LIH) was established on December 9th, 1879. It was the 1st Maternity Hospital in Sri Lanka/ Ceylon ( the 2nd oldest maternity hospital in Asia). This historical institution popularly known as the De Soysa Lying-in -Home or De Soysa Maternity Hospital. It was founded in the year 1879 through the generosity of Charles Henry de Soysa, a great philanthropist of the era.

At its commencement it consisted of 22 beds and provided for 52 births during its first year. A decade later the hospital was providing for 425 births annually then on to 1051 in 1909 and 2000 in 1921. Along with the expansion of services the staff infrastructure was also developed. Dr. A. M. Fernando was appointed in 1887 as the first Medical Superintendent. The hospital was to see a glorious era of development from 1899 with the appointment of Dr. Murugesar Sinnathambi as its second Medical Superintendent and also as its first qualified specialist. The first caesarean delivery to be performed in Sri Lanka was done at the De Soysa LIH in 1905 and in 1907 the first organized operating theatre was commenced. During his term of office which lasted twenty years Dr. Sinnathambi was instrumental in establishing the De Soysa Lying-in-Home as the premier training institute in midwifery. Thus in addition to providing the clinical services for women's' health, initiating and developing training in midwifery for midwives (1909), Nurses (1916) and in Obstetrics and Genecology for medical students (1915) has been the greatest contribution of De Soysa Hospital to the people of Sri Lanka.

Dr H. M. Fernando

Dr Murugesar Sinnathambi

De Soysa LIH commenced the first Ante Natal Clinic in Asia in 1921. By this time the country was moving towards community based domiciliary healthcare with the organization of health units and the first such unit was commenced in Kalutara in 1926. The unit provided a template for promotive and preventive healthcare in the country and maternal and child health constituted its main component of activity. Even today it forms the core organization for Maternal and Child Health (MCH) care services in the country. De Soysa LIH was in the center of MCH activity at that time as a tertiary care institution as well as the main training institute for all grades of staff.

Midwife Training

Major changes were to occur in 1940 when the physical facilities of the hospital were improved with the opening of an administrative building. During that year the hospital was renamed the De Soysa Maternity Home (DMH). Even more significantly along with the commencement of the University of Colombo, the Faculty of Medicine was established and with it the appointment of the first Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. This event brought university education in Sri Lanka in general and medical training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in particular to the forefront. In addition to clinical care and training, clinical research also gradually commenced.

Maternal mortality was on the decline after the traumatic years of the malaria epidemics in the 1930s and 1940s. Free education was established and family planning was introduced with the commencement of the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka. The establishment of a second tertiary care maternity hospital in Colombo namely the Castle Street Hospital for Women (CSHW) in 1950 eased the burden on the De Soysa Maternity Home which was renamed the De Soysa Hospital for Women (DSHW) that year. The hospital by then was a fully established teaching institute consisting of three specialist units headed by consultants from the Ministry of Health and an academic unit headed by the Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology along with the specialist academic staff who serve as honorary consultants.

Instruments used in the past

In 1979 combined medical clinics were introduced so that women with medical disorders would be cared for jointly by a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a specialist in clinical medicine. This introduced the concept of sub specialization in maternity care.

The establishment of the Intensive Care Units for the mothers and that for the new born babies has provided major improvement in the care of high risk and life threatening situations. DSHW was declared a "Baby Friendly Hospital" by the UNICEF and the Government of Sri Lanka in 1992 and received the "Taiki Akimoto 5S Award" in 2003 for the best implementation of "5S" in the service sector. These achievements have been possible due to the joint efforts of generations of all grades of staff of the institution, the members of the de Soysa family, the volunteers serving in the Hospital Welfare Committee and the leadership provided by the hospital administrators.