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Health crisis: Doctors threaten action if Govt. fails to deliver

Health crisis: Doctors threaten action if Govt. fails to deliver

05 Nov 2023 | By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

  • President to decide on Thursday

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has issued an ultimatum to the Government, warning of intensified strike actions, which risk plunging the nation’s healthcare system into chaos.

GMOA Spokesman Dr. Chamil Wijesinghe made an announcement in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Morning, stating that the association would unleash a wave of strikes if the Government failed to formulate a concrete and comprehensive policy decision by the end of the week to the eightfold proposal they had submitted.

Sources revealed that the GMOA had held a high-level meeting with Senior Advisor to the President Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, where positive responses had been received from the Government regarding the GMOA’s demands and its proposed solutions to retain and support doctors while ensuring stability.

Dr. Samaratunga, it is learnt, had secured a meeting for the GMOA with President Ranil Wickeremesinghe on Thursday (9) morning, where the fate of the nation’s healthcare system may be decided. 

The GMOA emphasised that its future course of action would hinge on the outcome of this pivotal meeting.

The GMOA’s decision to initiate a series of actions, including strikes and protests commencing from Wednesday (1), has already sent shockwaves through the healthcare sector. 

While some of these actions have been temporarily suspended, other protest activities, and even the withdrawal of support for VIP ambulances, are to continue as originally planned.

With the healthcare crisis reaching a tipping point, the GMOA’s ultimatum poses a daunting challenge to the Government in resolving this contentious issue, the repercussions of which could be felt across the entire healthcare landscape.

In a letter written to the President on 8 September requesting a meeting, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge had noted that there would be destructive effects should the current trends be allowed to continue, with poor patients being victimised.

“In order to prevent such a catastrophic outcome, the GMOA has prepared eight proposals, and they have already been circulated to relevant authorities. On the other hand, on our request, the Minister of Health has appointed a technical committee within the Ministry of Health to give recommendations on how to mitigate the effects of brain drain on the healthcare delivery system. The aforementioned committee has finalised its report and it was officially handed over to the Minister of Health on 4 September,” the letter stated.

The GMOA has presented a set of demands to address the urgent crisis in the healthcare sector caused by the emigration of doctors.

Key issues include insufficient compensation for doctors, with a proposed solution of introducing a dedicated salary structure based on performance and market value, along with an increase in internship allowances. 

There is also a need to upgrade substandard quarters for doctors, particularly in peripheral hospitals, with a focus on challenging locations. 

Transportation facilities for doctors need to be improved, with adjustments for distance, availability, and transport allowance, and inclusion in transport policies for Government officials. 

To enhance schooling for doctors on compulsory transfers and those returning from foreign training, a proper scheme should be established, prioritising peripheral areas. 

Additionally, incentives for doctors in challenging peripheral hospitals, revisions to the tax policy, and initiatives for professional development are recommended. 

Addressing the shortage of medical drugs and consumables is crucial, with short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions based on the GMOA’s proposals. 

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