ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi to reinstate retired health workers as necessary on contract basis to battle the raging COVID-19 epidemic, the Prime Minister’s office said.
There are only 34,000 nurses currently working in the state sector, according to the PM’s office statement. Many of these nurses are currently on strike demanding better pay.
The Health Trade Union Confederation is to launch another strike campaign on June 10 with the participation of some 75,000 health workers including nurses, spokesman Ravi Kumudesh told EconomyNext. Among their demands is a pay increase to all health workers who are not doctors to reflect a recent 78% salary hike to doctors in the state sector.
A meeting was held at the PM’s office on June 09 with Public Services United Nurses’ Union Chair Muruttettuwe Ananda Thero.
The PM’s statement quoted Wanniarachchi as saying only 2,000 nurses are enrolled for yearly training programmes, which leads to the low number of working nurses in the country.
With daily COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka exceeding 2,500 in the third wave, the health ministry together with the military has had to increase hospital bed capacity to 30,000 and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity to 146.
However, ICU and HDU units need trained nursing and medical staff for round the clock observation and management of patients. Other wards also require more staff.
In an earlier report Wanniarachchi said doctors who are studying for postgraduate diplomas and masters degrees and nurses who are following basic courses have been released from study leave and directed to treat COVID-19 patients.
The minister said if necessary, the Ministry of Health will release final year training nursing students to assist in treatment as well.
Prime Minister Rajapaska said at the meeting that the duration of trainee nurses spends in hospitals should also be added to the total trainee time required in the program, the statement said.
Rajapaksa also stressed on the need to introduce short term courses for ICU training for nurses, it added.
Health Ministry Secretary S H Munasinghe said currently 840 nurses are undergoing ICU training and the program will be extended to train another 1,000 nurses.
The statement quoted Munasinghe as saying a cabinet paper has been presented with regard to extending the service period of health sector workers to 63 years. (Colombo/ June 09/2021)