7:55 AM

Docs launch token strike

Vauniya GH treats civilians including refugees and the injured security personnel
Contrary to claims by the Health Ministry, the Vavuniya General Hospital was not equipped to meet the challenging task of providing health care to thousands of people seeking refuge in government-held areas, GMOA spokesperson Dr. Upul Gunasekera said yesterday.
In a brief interview with News-Lanka, an angry Gunasekera said the medical staff of the premier health institution in the region struck work for four hours from 8 a. m. to 12 noon yesterday to pressure the Health Ministry to ensure adequate transport facilities to doctors serving there. He said that there had not been a breakdown of emergency services and medical facilities provided to the army.
Vavuniya remains a key medical facility for the army fighting on the Vanni front.
Due to the recent Defence Ministry directive to prohibit private vehicles from operating between Medawachchiya and Vavuniya and termination of train services northwards beyond Medawachchiya, the medical staff attached to government hospitals at Vavuniya and Mannar had been provided with two vehicles for their convenience, he said. Under this scheme, the Health Ministry had agreed to provide both vehicles and fuel to maintain uninterrupted services.
Commending Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for promptly facilitating the issue of a special pass for the medical staff to pass through the Medawachchiya checkpoint, Dr. Gunasekera accused the Health Ministry of turning a blind eye to their basic requirements.
Responding to our queries, he warned that unless the Health Ministry fully restored the transport services immediately, the GMOA would step up trade union action. "We’ll probably strike on Monday," he said, asserting it would be the responsibility of the government to ensure uninterrupted services at Vavuniya.
The official also accused the Health Ministry of failing to provide the required facilities to hospitals in the region even after President Mahinda Rajapaksa personally intervened on behalf of the army. He said the President had wanted the best possible care provided to army and police casualties but the Health Ministry and the Provincial administration had failed in their task.
He explained that the cold storage facilities at government hospitals at Vavuniya and Padaviya among other areas had been provided by the ICRC as pointed out by News-Lanka at a recent press conference chaired by Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. The Health Ministry was discussing grandiose plans while conveniently forgetting the need to provide essential services and take urgent measures to meet any eventuality in view of the Vanni battle.
He warned an unprecedented health crisis unless urgent steps were taken to strengthen facilities at hospitals to meet any eventuality. "We are struggling to meet the health requirement of both civilians and the army," he said, expressing concern over the absence of a cohesive policy to meet the army’s growing demand for enhanced medical facilities.
A spokesperson for the Vavuniya branch of the GMOA accused the Medical Superintendent of the Vavuniya hospital and the Regional Director of Health Services of allocating space in the newly built OPD and clinic complex outside the original plan. He said the GMOA wanted the ministerial intervention to correct the situation immediately.
He alleged the ministry of turning a Nelsonian eye to the deteriorating situation in the face of a major influx of internally displaced persons from LTTE-held area.
A Health Ministry spokesman told News-Lanka that a high level delegation would be sent to Vavuniya today to discuss the entire gamut of issues and take corrective measures.
Dr. (Mrs) P. Pasupathyrajah, medical superintendent and Dr. M. Mahendran, Regional Director of Health Services, Vavuniya, in a letter to President of the Vavuniya branch of the GMOA had explained the efforts taken by them to restore transport services. While appealing them to call off their trade union action, the two officials had emphasised the importance of a joint effort to run the hospital. Responding to the criticism over allocation of the newly built OPD and clinic complex, they said that allocation was done immediately to accommodate the Defence Ministry request for a suitable location for an Army Ward.