Irresponsible acts of doctors
The health sector resorts to trade union action even at the
drop of a hat.
Doctors employed by the state have made it a practice to resort to
trade union action as and when they wish, ignoring their social
responsibilities and obligations, We respect the rights of all
employees, be it in the public sector or otherwise.
We are cognizant that they have an inalienable right to take trade
union action against serious matters concerning workers' rights. But
that does not mean a trade union or a group of workers could hold a
Government or people to ransom and threaten a legitimate Government like
a terrorist outfit.
The Government Medical Officers' Association (GMOA) last week
launched a sudden strike demanding the removal of the Health Minister
from his post.
They organised a one-day strike without giving prior notice to the
As a result, thousands of helpless patients, many from the poorest
social segments faced severe difficulties due to the strike.
This is not the first time that the GMOA has resorted to this type of
action. Over the years Government doctors have taken such action,
regardless of the deadly impact their irresponsible act would have on
the lives of the helpless poor. Is this ethical? Certainly not by any
Government doctors often resort to such action even for the most
trivial reason, feeling perhaps they are an influential white collar
When the Government, the employer, asked doctors to sign attendance
registers, they rejected it outright and took trade union action. They
are under an illusion that they are super public servants and could do
anything and everything as the 'spoilt child' amongst public servants.
This type of irresponsible action is not tolerated in other
The main demand of the doctors was to increase the transport and
house rental allowances in keeping with the present cost of living.
However, all Government doctors are entitled to duty free car permits
and housing loans at very concessionary interest rates.
Yet, they do not touch on this preferential treatment they get
compared to other public servants.
Except for the few with foreign qualifications, all Government
doctors have obtained their entire education at no cost - from the
kindergarten to passing out from the Medical College. In other words,
most Government doctors have reached that level utilising a staggering
amount of public funds. It is the people in the provinces who have
funded the education of these doctors.
A colossal sum of money is spent on free education and the Government
has been increasing it every year. In these circumstances, the
Government doctors have a great social responsibility to serve the
people who have spent public funds for their education.
From the beginning of this year, Government doctors have been
prohibited from prescribing medicines bearing trade names. Many state
doctors seem to have been greatly perturbed by the 'generic name only'
decision due to obvious reasons.
The international pharmaceutical trade is said to be a big mafia and
in order to use their brand names, they would go to any extent. Some
doctors, who have become slaves of certain multinational pharmaceutical
companies, get immense benefits, including the maintenance of their
private vehicles, apart from overseas tours.
No doubt these doctors will lose all those with the implementation of
the Government's ruling from January 1.
The ties between the Health Ministry and the doctors' trade union
have been deteriorating since the Government began to reorganise the
Some Government doctors even scoffed at the 'order' to write only the
generic names of the medicines on their prescription. They considered
this decision as an attempt to "fetch water with a bucketful of holes".
But the Government was obliged to take this decision to protect
innocent patients from the multinational pharmaceutical mafia. If
doctors even have a modicum of concern for the public, who have funded
their education, they should endorse the decision and back the
President Mahinda Rajapaksa having met the GMOA, instructed the
officials of the Salaries Commission and Ministry of Finance to study
the salary structures of all health employees in the Government sector
and to offer them a compensation scheme that offers the maximum
President Rajapaksa also pointed out that Sri Lanka has the highest
proportion of Government servants in the world. He said that every one
of six persons works for the Government and people spend a large sum of
money to pay salaries for the 1.1 million pubic servants.
The Government's policy on medicines was also discussed during the
meeting and the trade union assured its fullest support to the
independent pharmaceutical policy introduced by Senaka Bibile. The
President instructed the Health Ministry officials to implement the
policy as early as possible.
Meanwhile, several civil organisations have informed Healthcare and
Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva that they will sign a public
petition with one million signatures against the GMOA and present it to
Many civil organisations have decided on this course of action due to
the conduct of the GMOA which they alleged was influenced by the
multinational drug companies and certain elements in the private sector
which now face a heavy loss of profits due to the Minister's fearless
order to issue prescriptions under the generic names of drugs.
The Government should end these irresponsible acts of doctors to
protect the hapless patients.