Sinhalese and Muslim doctors who withdrew from hospitals in the North and East following the recent killing of a Sinhalese doctor in the East will be returning to duty, but only to work in the main hospitals. The government has promised to provide “maximum security” measures at the general hospitals.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) secretary Upul Gunasekare said the doctors would be reporting to general hospitals in Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Jaffna.
“The medicos are concerned about their safety after the killing of Dr. S.W. Palitha Pathmakumara in Naavatkadu, and they have demanded reassurances from the authorities,” he said. “The Defence Ministry has said it will appoint four senior police officers and Special Task Force and other military personnel to provide security at the hospitals.”Meanwhile, some 40 peripheral hospitals in the North and East will also be provided extra security.
According to Dr. Gunasekere, doctors stationed in the North and East are not getting the support due to them from the provincial health authorities. He said Sinhalese doctors at certain hospitals were not even provided with living quarters.
“There are serious administrative lapses in the provincial health sector,” he said. “The provincial authorities are involved in all kinds of politics. They ignore suggestions made by the Health Minister, and even refuse to carry out ministry orders.”
Last Wednesday, a group of doctors representing the provincial health sector had a meeting with the President’s secretary Dr. Lalith Weeratunge and Health Ministry secretary Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage. Following the meeting, the Health Ministry secretary promised to visit hospitals in the North and East and talk to the provincial health authorities.
Meanwhile, an independent co-ordinator will be appointed to look into various medical sector issues, such as overtime payments, “Among the issues we brought up was OT, especially for doctors working in peripheral areas. Some doctors in Batticaloa and Ampara are not being paid OT, while doctors in Colombo are getting their OT payments without any problems,” he said.
Cabinet recently approved insurance cover of Rs. 5 million for all doctors working in the North and East.