May 04, Colombo: A strike launched by the nurses attached to Sri Lanka's state hospitals since Thursday has paralyzed the government hospitals severely inconveniencing patients.
Three trade unions in the nursing sector - Government Nursing Officers Association (GNOA), the All Ceylon Nurses Association and the Government Family Health Services Officers Association launched the strike to demand midwifery training to the nurses, an issue the state doctors and midwives' unions oppose.
However, the Chairman of the Public Service United Nurses Association Venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero said that his union will call off the strike from Monday morning and the nurses attached to the union will return to work.
Addressing a media conference in Colombo today the Thero said the President Mahinda Rajapaksa has paid attention to the strike and initiated measures to appoint a committee to solve the problem under the chairmanship of the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Dr. P B Jayasundera.
"The Public Service United Nurses Union will take part in this trade union action only today. From tomorrow we will withdraw from this trade union action," the Thero said.
According to the union leader, Dr. Jayasundera has held discussions with the union and as a result the strike has been called off.
However, the other two unions say the trade union action they commenced will continue.
Meanwhile, the powerful doctors' union in state hospitals, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) says the nurses' claim that they are engaged in essential services despite the strike is not true and some patients are in a critical condition due to the strike action.
GMOA spokesman, Dr. Naveen De Soyza told media that the condition of three kidney patients in at the Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital remains critical.
GNOA Chairman Saman Rathnapriya has denied GMOA's claim and said GMOA'a charges are baseless.
The nurses unions demand that midwifery training be given to the nurses as well but the GMOA and unions of midwives object to the demand saying that that nurses cannot perform duties in labor rooms under medical ordinance.
The Ministry of Health has appointed a medical technical expert committee to resolve the dispute between the nurses and the family health officials and has asked the relevant unions not to resort to trade union action.
However, the discussions between the nurses unions and the Health Ministry officials have not been productive in resolving the dispute.
Minister of Health Maithripala Sirisena has urged both sides to resolve their differences promptly to find a common ground in the best interests of the country and the public as the current crisis could jeopardize the country' entire health services.
Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Dr. Nihal Jayathilake said at present, the doctors and other support staff are coordinating in the absence of nurses but the duties performed by nurses cannot be conducted by the others in the health sector.