Wednesday, 17 September 2003  
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Drastic measures for normal health services

by Bharatha Malawaraarachchi

The Health Ministry is to take drastic measures today to ensure normal services at Government hospitals amidst the proposed trade union action by the Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA).

The Ministry plans to obtain the assistance of the Security Forces to ensure normal services and also to take certain other alternative measures.

"We are taking every possible step to ensure the smooth functioning of the health service," Health, Nutrition and Welfare Minister P. Dayaratna told a press briefing last evening after an extensive discussion with trade union representatives.

The trade union representatives had a separate meeting with the Treasury officials and it followed another meeting with the Cabinet Sub Committee.

Minister Dayaratne said it is very unfortunate that the trade union alliance had decided to launch a trade union action despite several measures taken by the Government to find a solution to the existing salary anomaly .

" Given the complexity of the problem, the Treasury has requested a six week period to arrive at a decision on the proposals made by the Ministry's Sub Committee as a huge sum of money is necessary for rectifying this salary anomaly in different categories in the health sector," the Minister added. He said around Rs 3300 million would be required annually to rectify this salary anomaly." This is a huge sum of money and there are many categories. Therefore, trade unions should be concerned about their responsibility towards the poor patients of this country," he added.

Minister Dayaratne requested the trade union to give sufficient time for the Treasury to reach a final decision on resolving these salary anomalies.

However, a spokesman for the alliance said they would stage the scheduled strike today." The discussion was a failure and we could not reach a consensus, the spokesman added.

Minister Dayaratne said several measures are now in place to ensure a normal health care for the patients arriving at Government Hospitals.

Already, the Ministry has decided to cancel leave of all Health Department staff with immediate effect. "Substitutes, casual workers and temporary employees who will not report to work today will be deemed as having vacated their posts," he added.

The Health Ministry has informed all heads of institutions under it to terminate the services of all those who fail to report for work in terms of the provisions of the Establishments Code. The Health Department has also decided to allow a relative of critical patients to stay at the hospital while arrangements are now being made to provide cooked meals to in-house patients.

" We are making every possible arrangements to maintain a satisfactory health service at Government hospitals and to safeguard the rights of patients," Ministry Secretary Dr. Reggie Perera said.

He said, doctors, nurses, pharmacists will not be participating at today's strike." This will allow us to ensure better service at hospitals."

Meanwhile, the Public Service United Nurses' Union (PSUNU) announced yesterday that they would not join today's trade union action. "We are not a member of this alliance and request all our members not to join this trade union action," its President Ven. Muruttetuwe Ananda Thera told the Daily News.

The Ven. Thera said already the PSUNU has initiated discussions with Health authorities to find solutions to salary anomalies in the health sector.

The HSTUA has decided to stage a continuous trade union action from today (17) urging health authorities to provide satisfactory solutions to salary anomalies.

Their strike will be staged at all hospitals countrywide except Lady Ridgeway, De Zoysa, Castle and Cancer Hospital, Maharagama.

A spokesman of the HSTUA said that health officials and the Cabinet Sub Committee have failed to give them satisfactory solutions within the stipulated time framework of 14 days.

They claimed that the recent salary hike approved by the Health Ministry for the doctors has created a huge salary anomaly in the health sector.

Minister Dayaratne assured that Police and security forces will be deployed in hospitals to provide protection for those who are reporting to work today.


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