The Health Trade Union Confederation (HTUC) comprising over 20 trade unions in the health service will go on a strike tomorrow (3), making 15 demands including safety facilities during the battle against COVID-19 and risk allowances to all health services.
The Government Nursing Officers’ Association (GNOA), which is a part of the HTUC, said with the total patient numbers amounting to 186,364, the death toll at 1,441 and the number of active patients at 33,183, the country needs to pay close attention to the World Health Organisation’s warning regarding the situation.
President of the GNOA, Saman Ratnapriya said all health services had cautioned the Government and Health Ministry when the number of patents had reached 15,000 that there could be a collapse in the health services in catering to such large numbers.
He said there have been at least 1,000 COVID-19 victims in the State health services who had contracted the virus while serving in COVID-19 wards or from patients.
He added that 300 to 350 nurses have been infected with the virus, out of which 17 are from the Trincomalee General Hospital who were infected within two days. The National Hospital had 20 nurses who contracted COVID-19 in the second and third waves.
“However, the Health Ministry failed to provide even a KN95 mask to its employees,” he said, adding that there was a dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health service employees working closely with COVID-19 patients.
“If 100 are ordered only 10 or 25 are issued,” he lamented. He said although the Ministry of Public Services Provincial Councils and Local Government issued a circular granting paid leave to pregnant State-sector employees owing to their vulnerability to the current strain of the coronavirus, the benefit was not extended to State health services. “Does that make the pregnant women in the health service less vulnerable than others?” Ratnapriya queried.
“No member of the public wants to travel with healthcare workers on a bus due to the COVID-19 situation. There have been incidents even during the third wave where healthcare employees working at the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital were thrown out of their boarding places because they were working in COVID-19 wards.
But the Health Ministry and Government failed to at least provide transport facilities even during this period with travel restrictions, let alone at other times,” he alleged. “There are 4,000 nurses who have not received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but recently the medical practitioners had their family members and even their domestic helpers immunised,” he further alleged.
President of the Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM), Ravi Kumudesh noted that healthcare was a collaborative effort and not a function carried out by medical practitioners alone.
However the Health Ministry and Government seemed to think otherwise. The risk posed to all employees in the health service is even greater now; especially for minor and nursing staff who work closely with those who have contracted the virus. Therefore, the Government should ensure that the risk allowance be paid to all categories and not just the chosen few.
Kumudesh said that the strike would be held only for four hours in health institutions that do not cater to COVID patients. The demands also include setting up a committee headed by the Director General Health Services to strengthen COVID-19 prevention and control The Health Secretary should be present whenever a decision is made with regard to COVID-19 preventive measures at the committee level.
(Source: Ceylon Today – By Dilanthi Jayamanne)