Trade unionists as killers

Hippocrates and Florence Nightingale would spin in their graves if they knew what doctors and nurses were doing in this country. Some of those who have taken the Hippocratic Oath have turned out to be a bunch of inveterate hypocrites not caring two hoots about professional conduct and some of the followers of the Lady with the lamp have become ladies (and gentlemen) with bludgeons.

A strike initiated by the JVP nurses’ union at the Ratnapura General Hospital in retaliation for the transfer of a male nurse who locked horns with a doctor the other day has resulted in the loss of three lives including that of a child, according to the Ministry of Health. The hospital director has sought to dispute these figures. It is not the numbers that matter. The fact remains that the strike has led to destruction of life. We have nurses and doctors trying to blame one another for the tragic situation.

Ironically, when a poor garment worker named Chamila was raped and murdered at the Negombo hospital last November, nurses and doctors joined forces to protect the suspect who was a doctor. Nurses tried to frighten the only eyewitness, a female service worker, into silence and when they failed, they went on a witch-hunt against her. Hadn’t we taken up cudgels for her, she would even have lost her job. All the professional organisations pontificating to politicians et al about professional conduct and good governance have chosen to remain mum on that incident, trotting out various excuses. Ever since, doctors and nurses have been at one another’s jugular on several occasions. A group of medical students of the Peradeniya University set upon the nurses at the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital a few months ago. Doctors and nurses had a row at the National Hospital recently. Is this some kind of nemesis?

It is unfortunate that some members of two respectable professions have stooped to the level of thugs in a fish market, holding as they do patients under their care to ransom. Worse, a Buddhist monk, Ven. Muruttetuwe Ananda Thera, has been at the helm of a nurses’ union instigating strikes. He seems to have forgotten the Buddha’s words: Yo gilanang upaththaiya so mang upaththaiya — ‘Anyone who nurses the sick nurses me’. How can a Buddhist monk seek to achieve anything for himself or anyone else at the expense of the sick? Ven. Ananda Thera is reported to have promised stern action against his members who took part in the JVP-instigated strike at Ratnapura. That promise is, we reckon, only a tactic to avoid public opprobrium.

We make no attempt to tar all doctors and nurses with the same brush. But, the good doctors and the good nurses have let some unsavoury elements in the garb of trade unionists bring their noble professions into disrepute. They have allowed their so-called leaders with no regard for human life to lead them by the nose. To that extent, they, too, are guilty of the sins their leaders commit in the name of trade union action. All it takes for evil to flourish is the silence of good men and women.

All those who caused, through their deliberate action, the deaths in question at the Ratnapura Hospital must be brought to justice immediately. They deserve deterrent punishment. One sees hardly any difference between them and terrorists.

The Health Ministry mandarins cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for the tragic state of affairs at government health institutions. They must be asked to pull their socks up or depart. This applies in equal measure to the Minister of Health who has capitulated to the killer union Mafia in the health sector.

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