Sri Lanka’s doctor trade union eats humble pie

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government have backed down from their pledge not to hold any trade union-related discussions with Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne and sought an appointment to meet with him, official sources said.

The hard-line Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has been granted an appointment on Monday at 3.30 p.m. at the health ministry which was vandalised by university students backed by several parties, including the GMOA.

The meeting will take place two days after Senaratne announced that he wants to host a South Asian medical college with the backing of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

"It is ironic that they (the GMOA) is now seeking a meeting with Dr. Senaratne after deriding him and saying they will never have any negotiations with him," a government official said.

Last month, the GMOA called off a strike saying they won their demands over private medical education after discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena.

However, President Sirisena made it clear that he had not offered any concessions and only reiterated the government’s stand of the private South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).

Sirisena supports the freedom of education and wants students who do not qualify to enter state-run medical colleges to have the option of becoming doctors through private education.

The recent GMOA-led strikes that caused inconvenience to tens of thousands of people seeking free health care at state hospitals has also led to a split in the doctors’ trade union.

A splinter group which calls itself the Grade Medical Officers’ Association was formed earlier this month and it refused to join recent strikes called by the older union.

A split within the GMOA also turned violent last month when one doctor smashed a cup on the face of another breaking his nose. Ironically, the injured doctor had to be rushed to the National Hospital Colombo where his own colleagues were on strike.





GMOA insiders said they were also worried about a threat issued by a consumer group to invoke curses on those refusing to treat patients at state hospitals.

The consumer rights group, the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection (NMCRP), had said it will stage ceremonies in front of the homes of GMOA executive committee members to invoke curses on them for holding patients to ransom.

The NMCRP and several other citizen’s groups are also known to have collected names of striking doctors and their family details.

The NMCRP has said it wants to visit schools where striking doctors’ children study and lobby teachers and other students to ostracise children of striking doctors. (COLOMBO, July 30 2017)

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