Grave crisis in North-East hospitals

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

With health services in the crisis-ridden Eastern and Northern Provinces virtually at a deadly standstill, doctors will decide today whether they will restrict their services only to hospitals in main towns and not those in rural areas of the two provinces.

The move comes in the aftermath of the killing of a doctor at a hospital at Navatkadu in Batticaloa last Sunday. This provoked more than 100 doctors from all communities to leave the North and East.
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) will meet today to decide whether to post doctors from the rest of the country only to main hospitals in the north and east and keep them out of rural hospitals in the area, GMOA secretary, Dr. Upul Gunasekere said.

“Though extra security has been promised for doctors, we see various groups operating in the area
Grave crisis in with various motives while patients are unhappy over heavy security in hospitals,” he said. In a move to settle the crisis, Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said transport with security would be arranged for doctors travelling from Colombo to hospitals in the North and East while the period during which they stayed away would be considered as duty leave till today.

He warned that if they did not report for duty by today without informing the heads of the hospital, they would be considered to have vacated their posts.

The minister said some of the doctors who worked in the East had agreed to go back and the government had arranged transport, irrespective of others agreed or did not agree to go.

Mr. de Silva said the government was considering an insurance scheme for doctors who worked in risky areas. Almost 100 doctors have returned to Colombo, 85 from the Batticaloa district and others from peripheral hospitals in Vavuniya, Mannar and Trincomalee.

Nearly all hospitals in Batticaloa district are lacking OPD services. The Sunday Times learns that around four hospitals in the Batticaloa district were virtually closed down due to the lack of doctors last week.

“Most of the OPDs are not functioning and only emergency cases are taken. Daytime also emergency services are being handled with a lot of effort but at night time the situation is worse” the Batticaloa District’s Deputy Health Services Director, Dr. S. Sadharmughan, said.Dr. V. Jeganathan, Health Ministry’s coordinator for the North and East, said the current crisis had left thousands of patients in the lurch.

Reports said people turned away from rural hospitals had come all the way to the main hospital in Batticaloa’s main hospital but found no relief even there. The crisis has not only afflicted the health services, but also other sectors.

Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association Secretary Chandraratne Pallegama said the Chief Secretary of the Eastern Province and three other administrative officers had been killed in recent months and the whole service was in crisis.

He said some groups want to cripple the administration and he had appealed to the President and other government leaders to ensure their security.

Mr. Pallegama said the SLASA had only made requests but never taken action, but this time they might be compelled to do so.

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