Healthcare workers to walk out today
By Dilanthi Jayamanne
State hospital nurses, professions supplementary to medicine and paramedics, clerical staff and minor employees have warned they would stage a five-hour walk-out followed by countrywide protests today (27) at 12 noon demanding the Government reinstate their COVID-19 risk allowance which had been stopped. abruptly, Joint Convener, Health Service Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA), Saman Ratnapriya warned.
Addressing the Media in Colombo, Ratnapriya said that the Rs. 7,500 COVID risk allowance (CRA) that had been paid to health services at the time when the COVID situation in the country had reached a serious stage and when health service employees too have started falling victim to the deadly virus.
Till now there are 12 of them who fell victim while engaged in control and preventive work. The Ministry expected certain health service categories to work with minimum safety facilities to safeguard themselves, he accused. The services in preventing and control work carried out by health service employees is underrated by the Health Ministry and the Government. It is probably why that by 30 August 2021 the payment of the Rs. 7,500 CRA was stopped by the Government despite the fact that infections still remained in the 1,000 per day while fatalities too remained fairly high, he observed.
Voicing grievances of 44 trade unions comprising over 100,000 health employees he said that it was to fulfil the service requirement in hospitals that forced health service employees to put in 200 to 300 hours of extra duty. But when having to pay for this, the hours are tuned down to 60 hours of extra duty. When there is a shortage of staff in hospitals the existing staff has to put in extra hours to cater to the need.
This service is provided with the consent of the hospital’s administrator. “Our problem is why the Health Ministry gets its employees to work the maximum but were reluctant to pay them for the work they did,” he said demanding that the government did pay the health service employees for the workload they covered.
All health workers do not have personal vehicles to travel for work and have gone through severe inconvenience during lockdowns. The situation was no different with this quarantine curfew.They have had to travel to work hiring vehicles. The government did not even bother to take the necessary steps to ensure that these hospital workers were provided the necessary transport facility.
The Health Ministry is short of at least 12,000 nurses while there were shortages in all other categories of the State health service. But nothing is being done to fill them while the existing categories are not even being paid for the added work load they put in to fill this need, he alleged.