Acting Health Minister points finger at Maithripala

GMOA threatens strike over recruitment of non-medical nutritionists


By Don Asoka Wijewardena

Around 20,000 doctors attached to the Government Medical Officers’ Association would launch a countrywide strike in the first week of December against the Health Ministry for allegedly recruiting 41 non-medical nutritionists, the GMOA said.

 GMOA Assistant Secretary Dr. Nalinda Herath yesterday told The Island that while qualified doctors were being trained as nutritionists by the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM), the acting Health Minister Lalith Dissanayaka and Health Secretary Sudharama Karunaratne were going to appoint 41 nutritionists who had obtained degrees in agriculture.

 Dr. Herath said that when the GMOA met President Mahinda Rajapaksa last July, the then Deputy Health Minister Lalith Dissanayaka said that he was interested in recruiting nutritionists. Then President Rajapaksa had asked Deputy Minister Dissanayaka to follow the correct procedure and not to recruit non-medical personnel to such positions. Even President Rajapaksa was aware of the PGIM training programme in nutrition.

Acting Minister Dissanayaka and Health Secretary Karunaratne had taken action to appoint 41 non-medical nutritionists ignoring the President’s order to follow the correct procedure in recruiting nutritionists. The GMOA’s General Committee had unanimously decided to launch a strike in the first week of this month unless the Health Ministry withdrew the appointments of 41 non-medical graduates, the GMOA Assistant Secretary said.

He said that the Health Ministry bigwigs were trying to make President Rajapaksa unpopular. "These graduates to be appointed as nutritionists at hospitals have not been trained in nutrition. They are agriculture and commencegraduates. Just because they are graduates, they are not qualified to work as fully-fledged nutritionists. The PGIM is training doctors in nutrition at the moment. The GMOA has no alternative but to launch a strike in protest of the authoritarian rule of the Health Ministry," Dr. Herath stressed.

Dr. Herath warned that GMOA General Committee would take the final decision on the exact day of launching the strike this week. GMOA would ensure that all emergency services would go ahead as usual. But, all routine operations, OPDs and clinics would be closed during the strike.

Acting Health Minister Lalith Dissanayaka, contacted for comment, dismissed the allegations levelled against him. He said that the recruitment of 41 nutritionists had been approved by the former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena. He had issued gazette notification on the recruitment criteria. Some graduates who had agricultural degrees had been recruited. Even he had seen the gazette which was wrong, he said.

Minister Dissanayaka said that neither he nor the Health Secretary could revoke the appointments to those 41 recruits because they had been recruited through interviews and examinations. The Health Ministry was scheduled to hand over the appointments to those appointees on Dec. 1, he said.



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