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PHIs disillusioned islandwide: Union

  • Cites gruelling work hours, personal costs for communication, transport, PPE

  • PHIs testing positive

BY Pamodi Waravita

 

The Public Health Inspectors’ (PHIs’) Union yesterday (10) said their officers are largely disappointed due to a range of issues they currently face while battling the Covid-19 pandemic on the frontlines, including punishing work hours, heavy personal costs incurred, and the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) during emergencies.

“Due to Covid-19, everyday on average we have to work for three to four hours extra. We also manage our telephone costs by ourselves. Although we are supposed to be paid Rs. 2 per km as the petrol cost, PHIs in places like Galle have not received even that since August last year,” alleged PHIs’ Union Secretary Mahendra Balasuriya.

According to Balasuriya, a PHI’s entry-level salary amounts to Rs. 37,200, excluding the transport cost of Rs. 2 per km. A third-level PHI earns approximately Rs. 45,000.

“In some places where Covid-19 is spreading rapidly, it is difficult for us to get face masks, gloves, and/or sanitiser from the relevant authorities, and therefore the officers have to spend on those necessities by themselves. Especially in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, there is only minimal support for ground-level health workers. This has led to great dissatisfaction in all of us,” he further said.

Balasuriya added that such work conditions have led to immense disappointment in most officers who resort to spending their own money to provide a good service for the public. However, with the increasing numbers of cases in the island, PHIs are also worried about contracting the virus themselves.

Over 20 PHIs have contracted the virus since last year, said Balasuriya. With the onset of the third wave, three PHIs have already tested positive for the virus.

On 9 May, the highest number of Covid-19-positive cases was recorded at 2,672 in total. Yesterday (10), National Operation Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head and Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva said that although a countrywide lockdown is unlikely to be imposed, travel restrictions may be imposed in the coming days.