Docs in shocking brawl

Shadow fight

A simmering dispute between two factions of doctors came to a boil with some of them exchanging blows and heaping abuse on one another at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), Colombo yesterday.

The doctors engaged in the violent free-for-all were from the powerful Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) and its rebel faction.

Witnesses to the doctors’ fight said the NHSL had remained calm and quiet with many workers on a sick note campaign until the GMOA General Committee members started distributing leaflets to the consternation of its rebels who opposed their move.

The pro-GMOA doctors wanted to go ahead with their campaign and then hell broke loose. Some hospital workers who spoke to The Island said it was difficult to say who started it, but some doctors had been seen assaulting one another.

When the situation got out of hand with doctors continuing to kick and punch, the hospital authorities called in the police.

Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa, speaking on behalf of the GMOA Trustees told The Island that the doctors attached to the GMOA General Committee had decided to distribute some leaflets and as there was no GMOA Branch at the NHSL, an interim committee had been dealing with the union affairs there.

They had been distributing leaflets among their members when they were confronted by their rivals,  Epitakaduwa said. But, around 200 pro-GMOA doctors had asked their rivals not to obstruct and harass them as they were engaged in legitimate trade union action for the benefit of all doctors, the spokesman said. Then, the anti-GMOA doctors including some consultants had set upon the GMOA members, compelling the latter to act in self defence, Dr. Epitakaduwa added.

Dr. Epitakaduwa called it an unfortunate incident; it was the first time that a fight between doctors had taken place at the country’s leading hospital. The NHSL GMOA Interim Committee had, he said, asked the NHSL Director Dr. Anil Jasinghe to stop the aggressive behaviour of the rebel faction which wanted to hold a meeting at the hospital’s trauma unit. Dr. Jasinghe said he had not been present at the hospital at the time of the incident.

A spokesman for the rival faction said on condition of anonymity that the GMOA members had provoked the clash by trying to prevent their meeting and distributing leaflets.

NHSL Deputy Director Dr. Cyril de Silva, contacted for comment, said that one faction of the GMOA including consultants had organised a leaflet distribution campaign at the NHSL yesterday morning. At the same time some doctors who were against the GMOA had wanted to hold a meeting at the Neuro-Trauma Unit. They had managed to conduct the meeting under the police protection, he said.

The GMOA last night accused Jasinghe of allowing rebel doctors to have a meeting at the neurosurgical unit yesterday afternoon. A GMOA spokesman said that Dr. Jasinghe had allowed the meeting during working hours thereby violating the Constitution of the Association. The Central Committee of the GMOA would push for disciplinary action against the rebel group as well as those who had assisted them, he warned.

(Courtesy: The Island)