GMOA vows to continue strike Until their issues are addressed

Doctor's strike in Sri Lanka

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) called a one-day islandwide strike yesterday (30) to protest against several 2017 Budgetary proposals.

The GMOA brings out concerns relating to the new contributory pension scheme introduced by the government, proposed taxation on the professionals, accepting aid from tobacco companies to fatten the President’s Fund, privatization of the health services and permitting foreigners to render their services in Sri Lanka.

A representative of the GMOA, Dr. Haritha Aluthge, said “The union action was called islandwide, excluding the children’s hospitals, maternity hospitals and cancer hospitals, treatment centres for kidneys, MOH offices and the military hospitals, till 8.a.m today (1).”

They assured that emergency treatment centres would not be hampered. “There are five demands raised in the action. Today (1) the Executive Committee will be met to assess the status of the action and decide on further action. Next Tuesday (6 December) will be crucial as Joint Committee of Executive Officers in All Island Services is planning to meet to discuss the future course of action.

This joint committee comprises 18 unions. The government should provide a prompt solution to the concerns raised by the GMOA to prevent a drastic decision during Tuesday’s meeting. We would cease the union action as soon as the minister calls us up for a discussion,” Dr. Aluthge said.

Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said in response to the strike action, “The GMOA is confused because of their lack of understanding about the subject. Amongst the number of concerns raised, the newly introduced taxation proposal was their major concern. When GMOA President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya spoke to me over the phone this morning (30) he was not aware of the taxation methodology adopted by the Ministry of Finance. They are under the impression that the taxation policy is a double jeopardy when the ceiling is calculated upon the cumulative salary of the government employees.

In an earlier occasion, GMOA spokesman Dr. Naveen de Soysa raised this issue with me in writing. Then I immediately called Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayaka to learn the taxation methodology. I have communicated the information on the methodology to the GMOA. However, now they have initiated a union action, without paying attention to the clear taxation mythology. This taxation methodology is just another strategy adopted by the Ministry of Finance to reveal the amount of second income generated by doctors when they conduct private practices. When a doctor pays his due taxes against the monthly secondary income generated, the amount of taxes paid in the first instance will be deducted from the Rs 20,000 tax imposed when the monthly income of a doctor exceeds Rs 200,000 a month.

Dr, Rajitha Senarathna also said “The GMAO had noticed the union action to the ministry three days ago. What they actually should have done was to request my mediation for a meeting with the Ministry of Finance. When the issue over Rs 10,000 allowance arose, I coordinated the meeting with the Minister of Finance. See, the GMOA is a union comprising professionals.
They should practise professionalism in their conduct too. The other demands raised are to draw the attention of the public service to support the action. For example, the issue about pension had been included to draw others’ attention. The contributory pension scheme was introduced by none other than Dr. N.M. Perera in 1973.

The government has instituted across the public service as a policy. We have not granted approval for the foreign nationals to render professional services in the country as they say. Any doctor practising in the country should obtain the approval of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC). It is up to them to grant such approval. How can we supersede that?”
Commenting on the status of the union action, Dr. Senaratne said, “The officers of the GMOA have called off duty till 8:00 a.m. today (1), but all the Consultants in the government service have reported to duty as usual.”

(Source: Ceylon Today – BY CHARMINDA RODRIGO)