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Docs, nurses clash, crippling Kandy hospital

2013 Jul 27

By Dilanthi Jayamanne and

Cyril Wimalasurendra

Doctors and nurses clashed over a room once again at the Kandy General Hospital (KGH) yesterday and the former struck work in protest.

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) warned doctors would resort to further trade union action after a special meeting to be held at 8.00 am today (27) unless the Health Ministry conducted an inquiry into what it called nurses’ high-handed acts.

President of the KGH Branch Union and Vice President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association, Dr. Saman Karunatilake, accused nurses of having locked up the anesthetist on duty in the duty room on several occasions. Anesthetists provided a 24-hour service and there was one present in the duty room at all times. Although they were available mainly for operations in the new theatre complex, which was opened recently, the anesthetist on duty at night was also responsible for handling emergency cases. Dr. Krunatilake said that the anesthetist had not been able to come out on three occasions––twice when there were two emergency caesarian sections and once when there was an urgent liver transplant as she had been locked up by the nursing staff. He said that on the first occasion the surgeons had been compelled to request the service of another anesthetist. However, there had been an inordinate delay in conducting the operation as a result.

The GMOA Branch President said that a complaint had been made to the Hospital Director. However, nothing had been done until the Health Ministry stepped in to send Additional Health Secretary, Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, to KGH. He said that Dr. De Silva had pledged to take necessary action and provide security to the theatre equipment. However, the nurses had flouted orders on the very night and locked up the anesthetist, he said.

The GMOA said the situation had become so bad that the anesthetist on duty had been compelled to wait in her vehicle as she could not get back to the duty room after the operation as it had been locked while she was in the operating theatre.

Dr. Karunatilake said that the Deputy Director General Health Services, Dr. Ananda Gunasekera had been called in and he had pledged to dispatch a team to inquire into instances of insubordination and lack of discipline on the part of the nursing staff by yesterday morning.

However, the team had not arrived even by 12 noon, Dr. Karunatilake said. The doctor warned that they would call off their strike this morning only if the team of investigators arrived. Further trade action would be taken if the Ministry failed to carry out an investigation, he warned.

Meanwhile, President of the Public Service Nurses Union (PSUNU), Ven. Muruttetuwe Ananda Thera said that nurses would do everything in their power to safeguard the wellbeing of patients. "But they are not prepared to be the slaves of doctors who are behaving like conductors." The Theatre complex should be locked when it was not in use for the safety of costly equipment in it.

The PSUNU chief said that it was regrettable that doctors should protest against such precautionary measures.

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