GMOA says nurses trade union action unfair, timed for PC polls


Doctors of the National Hospital perform the duties of nurses who resorted to several trade union actions including not assisting the doctors yesterday. Pic by Saman Abeysiriwardena

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) General Committee member Dr. Navin de Soyza yesterday accused the Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU) of having timed their trade union action for the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections to win what he called its unfair demands.

In accordance with the Medical Ordinance section No. 54 only medical officers and midwives could perform deliveries. The term, nurse-midwife did not exist in the Medical Ordinance. Health and Nursing administration should abide by the law, Dr. Soyza said, addressing the media at the GMOA head office yesterday.

Dr. Soyza said currently there were about 3,800 vacancies for midwives in the state health sector. However, attempts were being made to fill them with nurses. A midwife looked after a mother throughout the pregnancy cycle. It included ante-natal care, labour, post-natal care and contraception. Therefore, midwifery played the major role in bringing down the maternal mortality rate (MMR), Neo-natal mortality rate (NMR) and Infant Mortality rate (IMR). Those indices not only indicated maternity and child health but also indicated the overall health status of the country. There was no justification for only one part of midwifery to be handed over to nurses, Dr. Soyza said.

Detailing nurses to carry out midwives’s duties was like getting cardiologists to function as obstetricians, Dr. Soyza said.

PSUNU Vice President D. Boralessa, contacted for comment, accused the GMOA of making false statements. Nurses were better qualified than midwives to perform labour room duties as they were trained in midwifery during their 4-year training. In most rural hospitals and institutions like the Castle Street Maternity Hospital and the Mahamodara Hospital labour rooms were managed by nurses.

The GMOA feared that nurses after the completion of a four-year training period will be able to follow degree courses and draw higher salaries as a special category, Boralessa said.

He maintained that for many years, the nurses had been serving in labour rooms. The GMOA had told the media that in accordance with the Medical Ordinance the nurse were not supposed to work in labour rooms. If this is true, then the Health Ministry should file a case against the nurses working in labour rooms. The PSUNU would continue its campaign until a solution to the problem was found, he said.

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