Editorial-Where have the nightingales gone?

6 May 2014 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The public health sector, which should be the most humane service provider in the country, is fast losing its credibility as the saviour of the people whose lives are threatened. It has already lost credibility for a large extent not only due to the unfriendly attitude of many of the employees in the sector towards the ordinary masses, as in the case of many other public sectors, but also owing to the fact that it is a sector where people strike work even at the drop of a hat, putting the lives of thousands of patients at risk. The best case in point in respect of sheer disregard for the patients by the employees of the public health sector was the recent work stoppage by nurses over a dispute about midwifery training for them.

Training, not only in midwifery, but any profession for anyone should be valued, in spite of it having anything to do with the nature of one’s employment. However, going by the public sector mindset one would definitely wonder as to why the nurses were craving for midwifery training and wanting to put on their shoulders an additional workload. On the other hand they have to make it clear as to why they are so keen to obtain midwifery training unless they intend to oust the midwives from the labour rooms of government hospitals. The Midwives’ fears are hence justifiable.

Also the grounds on which the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) opposes the midwifery training for nurses is not clear since it does not matter to them who helps them in the labour room if the concerned people have the necessary training.
All these three groups, doctors, nurses and family health workers argue they fight for the best interest of the mothers-to-be in particular and of the health sector in general. However, these groups do not hesitate to stop work even at the least provocation or over minor matters, putting thousands of people fighting for their lives at their mercy.

Sometime ago, doctors from four hospitals in the Polonnaruwa District announced a work stoppage due to a dispute over a room in the Polonnaruwa Hospital. Doctors had claimed the room that had been taken over by the Special Grade Nursing Officers as a space they used for resting while on duty. The learned medical professionals have to explain to the country whether this issue was worth striking for, ignoring the hapless patients.
On another occasion the nursing staff members were up in arms against the introduction of a new dress code to the hospital attendants.The nursing unions argued that the dress code in question was similar to the nurses’ uniform and demanded that it be changed. These concerns may be justifiable. But what is the right these groups have to deprive the patients of their right to be treated, through their “struggles”?

History has enough evidence to say that rights have to be won through struggles and nothing would be offered on a platter. Therefore one has to accept the right of these groups to fight for their rights, real or perceived, however much they are meagre. But one’s fight for rights should not deprive another of his or her rights. Also no group has the right to hold the masses, especially the patients to ransom to win their rights.

Strikes in the medical sector cannot be compared with those of other sectors since the former directly affects the lives of innocent patents, in spite of the right of employees of the sector to protest or make demands. Also no trade union in the health sector has so far admitted to the horrific result of their strikes on the patients and their families, though they always tie up their demands with the interests of the people or patients.All in all it is the hard earned money of the tax payers including the patients that are spent by the state to produce and maintain various professional groups in the medical sector.
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