Health staff harassed when obtaining fuel

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Despite the collaborative efforts between the Ministries of Health, Power and Energy, health sector employees are severely affected when obtaining fuel from selected filling stations due to assaults and objections of the people.

While District Hospital Narammala at this moment is making a valiant effort to maintain its services with the diesel it receives from the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) depot, its staff, which rely largely on petrol, are facing difficulties reporting to duty on time, Hospital sources said yesterday (19).

“However, we have not allowed the services provided by the hospital to collapse till this moment,” hospital authorities said. 

There are three fuel sheds within a two-kilometre radius of the hospital. But the situation is such that the hospital has to turn the SLTB depot to get fuel for the ambulance which presently has enough fuel for three more days. A similar situation is faced with the Hospital’s generator which also requires fuel. The Regional Director’s Office had forwarded more funds to obtain fuel for the ambulance.  

They said while some staff members living close to the hospital reach it on foot, others are either forced to use public transport or reach the hospital on bicycles and arrive late for their shifts.

Responding to questions regarding the fuel day allocated for health workers, sources said although they had queued up at the identified sheds on that particular day, a majority of the Hospital’s staff had been forced to turn back empty-handed. Health services were also faced with public opposition at this juncture who felt that their chances of obtaining fuel were being usurped, they added.      

Meanwhile, health workers at Base Hospital, Dehiattakandiya struck work yesterday (19) demanding an impartial investigation into the chaotic situation which had erupted when they went to obtain fuel for their vehicles on Saturday (16). They accused the OIC of having failed to take action to ensure the safety of the health workers and for failing to arrest those who had allegedly assaulted a medical officer attached to the hospital, Media Committee Member of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Dr. Vasan Ratnasingam lamented.  

He said the GMOA wrote to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Minister of Public Security to conduct an impartial investigation into the incident. If the authorities fail to take any action, a strike would be extended to all healthcare institutions in the Ampara District today (20).

Dr. Ratnasingam warned that the staff would spread its strike in the Eastern Province tomorrow (21) if action was not taken by the IGP to meet this demand.

He accused the OIC of neglecting his duty and compromising the safety of health workers. Health service workers were faced with severe public opposition in several sheds that had been allotted to provide fuel for their vehicles on Saturday (16), 

The GMOA Media Committee member said that opposition was shown by the public and even shed owners in Polonnaruwa, Galle, Hambantota and Matara. Even at Ambatale, when health workers from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) had gone to purchase their fuel they were met with resistance from the public and the shed owners, he lamented.

“Unless one’s closest relation falls sick, one does not realise the importance of maintaining the health services in the country,” he lamented, adding that not even 30 per cent of the health service workers had been able to get fuel on Saturday (16) without being subject to hostility.    

By Dilanthi Jayamanne