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Death of returnee: Husband to sue Kandy hotel

Following the death of a woman, who had returned to Sri Lanka for treatment, while in quarantine at a hotel in Kandy, the deceased’s husband plans to initiate legal action against the hotel, The Morning learnt yesterday (10).

“The hotel took full responsibility for my wife since she was under quarantine. We were told that she was under good care and medical treatment.

“I will take legal action against the hotel, not because I want compensation, but in order to prevent such an incident happening again to any returnee,” the deceased’s husband Indunil Preethi Kumara (50) told us.

The mother of one, who lived in Italy for the past seven years, came to Sri Lanka on 17 December for medical treatment since she was suffering from mental health issues, according to Kumara. He alleged that his wife died due to not being given proper medical treatment while she was under hotel quarantine.

When The Morning contacted the Police to determine the cause of death, Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said: “The postmortem confirmed that Dhammika Perera died of a heart attack.”

Kumara told us that Perera could not sleep due to the cold weather in Italy and had consequently suffered “a mental breakdown”. The Italian doctors had advised her to return to Sri Lanka for treatment as she would be better able to express herself in Sinhala, instead of attempting to communicate with Italian doctors in Italian. 

According to Kumara, almost 5,000 Sri Lankans living in Italy have requested to return to Sri Lanka but only those who apply for hotel quarantine are permitted to travel to the island and the others are added to a waiting list till there is space to accommodate them in government quarantine centres.

“I had to pay Rs. 217,890 for a one-way SriLankan Airlines ticket and Rs.16,000 for two PCR tests, and the hotel payment, which was Rs.175,000 for 14 days, was made upon arrival.”

All people who came on the flight were taken to the Kandy hotel despite Dhammika Perera requesting to be quarantined closer to Colombo, as she was from Maharagama and in consideration of her health condition. 

“My wife was not comfortable with the place due to her psychological situation. She requested a hotel from Colombo. Since it did not work out, she asked to share a room with another returnee as she was uneasy about staying alone due to her mental state. However, this request was denied by the hotel management. We couldn’t reach her for a few days, so I sent some of my relatives to pay a visit. Again, this was stopped by the security. However, I managed to call her over the phone with the help of the management and to get a glimpse of my wife through a video call. I was not aware at the time this would be the last time I’d see her.”

According to Kumara, she was unstable during her stay in the hotel and was not having her meals regularly. She had been wearing the same dress she had worn on her flight; it had been over two weeks. When questioned about this after the video call, the management’s reply was that she is fine and having her meals daily.

“My wife came on 17 December and was expected to leave on 2 January after quarantine. However, the hotel management wanted us to take her home on 1 January around 8 p.m. We were supposed to come and take her. Since I was not in Sri Lanka at the time, I told my relatives to attend to this matter. However, they got a call from the hotel on 1 January morning saying my wife had passed away. It was horrifying.”

According to the postmortem, she was Covid-19-negative and the cause of death was a heart attack, Kumara added.

When reached for comment, the Front Office Manager of the hotel in Kandy told us that the General Manager of the hotel had refused to comment on the matter.

All attempts to reach the National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) and the Kandy Public Health Inspector (PHI) for comment proved futile.