Health Ministry gives into nurses’ union demand


By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Health Ministry has given into the demands of the Government Nursing Officers’ Association (GNOA) and made it compulsory for all nurses who have completed five years of service in the south of the country to serve in Northern hospitals.

The spokesman for the Health Ministry said yesterday that the Health Ministry had earlier intended to fill the dearth of nurses in the North by training North and East students who passed their G.C.E. Advanced Level in arts and commerce, instead of science.

He said Students of the province, owing to the lack of resources found it difficult to take up science subjects at the G.C.E. Advanced Level, therefore the earlier decision was taken to fill the dearth of nurses in Northern hospitals by training arts and commerce students as nurses, but the GNOA insistence that only students who had passed the A/L in science subjects be taken for nursing had left the Ministry with no option but to send all nurses completing five years in other parts of the country outside the Northern Province to the North, the spokesman added.

Responding to the Health Ministry’s decision GNOA President Saman Ratnapriya said they would not allow the Ministry to adopt such a stance. An annoyed Ratnapriya accused the Health Ministry of trying to cover their shortcomings by implementing impulsive decisions taken by Health Ministry officials.

Initially the Ministry should have appointed a Transfer Board to transfer and appoint nurses on merit. As it is transfers are carried out haphazardly, he said.

The nursing unions advised the Health Ministry to deploy three hundred newly qualified nurses to the North when it gave appointments to over thousand new nurses at the end of last year. Instead the Ministry only took steps to send 80 of them to the North.

They failed to recruit new nursing trainees in 2009 and 2010. The nursing curricular takes three years to complete. One of the two batches would have passed out this year if recruitment had been done as advised. As it is there won’t be a batch qualifying this year, the unions charged.

The nursing unions while admitting that they were aware of the dire need for nurses in the North and East, however said that deploying nurses who have completed five years of service in the south - which includes completing service in difficult areas was unacceptable. Ratnapriya urged the Ministry to institute a Transfer Board to give annual transfers and to give new appointments according to merit order.

Earlier the GNOA warned they would carry out country wide protests if the government did not reverse its decision to recruit nursing trainees for North- East hospitals from G.C.E. Arts and commerce streams. They said that it would only serve to bring down the standard of the nursing profession.

Sections 7,2 and 4 of the nursing minute emphasises that only students who have scored in Bio science at the G.C.E. Advanced Level could be recruited for nurses training. "It was the policy of the Health Ministry before 2010 and we cannot approve the lowering of standards", Ratnapriya said.

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