Nurses to take sick leave today

  • Children’s, maternity, and cancer hospitals as well as Covid treatment centres excluded

By Buddhika Samaraweera


The All Ceylon Nurses’ Union (ACNU), which claims to have nearly 6,000 members islandwide, will engage in a 24-hour trade union action from 7 a.m. today (31) in protest of several issues, where their members will apply for sick leave and not report to duty.

The issues cited include the recruitment of 11 nurses in violation of the Sri Lanka Nurses Council Act, inadequate transport facilities, and the authorities’ failure to provide the nurses and their families with the Covid-19 vaccine.

ACNU General Secretary H.M.S.B. Mediwatta, when contacted by The Morning, said the ACNU has nearly 6,000 members island wide and in addition to them, nurses belonging to several other trade unions have also expressed their consent to support this trade union action.

However, he added that nurses working in children’s hospitals, maternity hospitals, cancer hospitals, and Covid-19 treatment centres will report for duty.

He claimed that the Ministry of Health is planning to recruit 11 candidates who do not meet the qualifications mentioned in the Sri Lanka Nurses Council Act.

“There are plans to recruit 11 graduates from private educational institutions who have not even passed the GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) examinations properly,” he added. “These 11 are among the 140 planned to be recruited to the nursing service. We are not against anyone getting a job. But the proper care that patients receive from a nurse can only be obtained by recruiting qualified candidates. We came to know that these 11 candidates have appeared for the A/L examination in streams such as arts and commerce, but those who are recruited to the nursing service have to have sat for the A/L examination in the science stream.”

He also said that the Ministry of Health (MoH)-led authorities have not yet taken any action to address the issues of nurses working in the hospitals where Covid-19 patients are being treated. In particular, 19 nurses attached to the intensive care units (ICUs) of the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University and three nurses attached to the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital in Malabe were found to have been infected with Covid-19 and the ACNU has requested the authorities that the matter be looked into and necessary arrangements be made to ensure their health safety.

Mediwatta further alleged that nurses who did not receive even the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine are still in some hospitals and stressed that authorities should take immediate action to provide the Covid-19 vaccine to nurses and their families who are at high risk in the prevailing situation.

“At the moment, a large number of nursing staff have been infected with the Covid-19 virus and many more have been quarantined for being identified as associates of the infected,” he said.

In addition, he said, transportation for nurses was provided only on the main roads and was not functional on the byroads. He also said that the number of buses currently deployed was not adequate and that almost all the Covid-19 health guidelines were being violated in transporting nurses on buses. They also demand a risk allowance of Rs. 5,000 for nurses.

He further said that the ACNU has decided to resign from all non-relevant duties assigned to the nursing staff if the MoH does not take action to resolve these issues as soon as possible. He also said that on the instructions of Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi, on 19 May 2021, the nursing trade unions were summoned to the MoH, and all these issues were raised during the discussion.

Several attempts to contact Health Minister Wanniarachchi, MoH Secretary Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe and Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena to inquire about their plans to deal with the ACNU’s trade union action, were unsuccessful.