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The Health Sector and a Nation held to Ransom

17 Feb 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

The health sector is one of the most important departments in any country. Recently, we had a Health Minister who dumped drugs unfit for human consumption on an unsuspecting population. Trade unions demanded his prosecution, and they were right.
Now these self-same unions are attempting to hold the nation to ransom via unreasonable demands for what amounts to a huge Rs. 35,000 travel allowance. 
Two days ago, striking health workers once again called off their trade union action. This has been the second time within a week, these workers have taken trade union action demanding a Disturbance, Availability and Transport (DAT) allowance of Rs. 35,000. 

Calling off the strike, union authorities declared they called off their action further to the Health Ministry promising to discuss their grievances. What is strange about the sudden about turn however is that these TUs were days earlier in discussion with the health authorities regarding this very demand.
The well-groomed spokesperson of the health sector unions went as far as to warn to government against deploying the military to help out at hospitals, with a threat to block emergency services at vital medical institutions such as the Apeksha Hospital and the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.
What arrogance and insufferable insolence! This wreck of a human being is in fact threatening to endanger the lives of children suffering in the cancer wards of the Apeksha Hospital, as well as those other unfortunates undergoing treatment at that hospital in addition to those out-patients travelling from distant cities and villages in our country.
This individual’s threats, make him akin to being a blood-brother to Israeli Premier Netanyahu. By 4 December last year, that Premier was responsible for the killing of at least 66,000 children in Gaza, in retaliation to the Hamas attack on Israeli occupied Palestine on 7 October 2023.
Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that Gaza is once again “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child”. 
The children’s wards at the Apeksha Hospital have approximately 800 beds for children suffering from cancer. It is these lives among others whom the union spokesman blithely threatens to put at risk.  
Health workers in government hospitals no doubt face the same difficulty in keeping up with the rising cost of living as other normal citizens of the country. But none of us are willing to wilfully, put at risk the lives of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
It cannot be forgotten that those seeking treatment at government hospitals come from among the poorer sections of society dependent on a daily wage. These workers receive a maximum wage of Rs. 45,000 per month. This body of people form almost 50 percent of the workers in the country. The fact that they are paid by the day compounds their problems.
In the estate sector the situation is even worse. There, workers receive less than Rs. 1,000/- per day and most times, less than 23 days of work per month. These workers bring in a major share of our foreign exchange earnings. But, children of estate workers are forced to walk miles to get to their schools as public transport systems do not operate in the estates.  
Yet, health workers are demanding Rs. 35,000 a month, as travel expenses in addition to their fixed monthly salaries.

The DAT allowance is exclusively meant for doctors who are at all times on call. Paramedics and minor staff duties are strictly in-house. They are not on call 24 hours a day. The demand is therefore rather surprising and unwarranted as the allowance is paid to doctors who are on call around the clock.
It is time the government found a permanent solution to our problematic health sector – including doctors and nurses – who at the drop of a hat are ready to down scalpels ‘for a few dollars more’. 
This country needs more doctors. The present university intake cannot cope. It’s time to open private medical universities to bridge this gap. Similarly, it may be better to outsource duties now performed by minor staff to private janitorial services