PHIs threaten withdrawal from essential services

by Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) warned they would withdraw from essential services at the Blood Bank, Air Port and Port if the government did not give into their monetary demands. PHIUSL Secretary, Senarath Bandara said on Wednesday that they wanted an increase in petrol, uniform and office allowances.

A countrywide strike was launched by the PHIUSL on Wednesday morning making four demands, which include an increase in their fuel allowance. Bandara said the PHIs were only paid a petrol allowance of Rs. 1,200 per month which they wanted increased to Rs. 7,500. The PHIs were paid only Rs. 500 as annual uniform allowance which had to cover purchasing the material, sewing and laundry charges. A PHI should receive at least Rs. 15,000 as uniform allowance annually to meet all costs, he said.

They also demand for an office allowance of Rs. 2,500 for urban areas and Rs. 2,000 for rural areas.

The PHI demands an increase in the number of their work cadre. At present the country has approximately 1,900 PHIs. Which means that one PHI looks into the health facilities of 18,000 people? However, the WHO standards require one PHI to for 10,000 members of the public, he said.

"We have also been demanding amendments in the PHI curriculum which was designed several years ago. It needs to be enhanced and modified urgently. Citing examples he said the curriculum should include details on non communicable disease control (NCDs), implementation of the Drug Act and food technology developments.

The union which has a membership of 1,741 initiated a strike on March 23 but called it off when Health Ministry officials met with its representatives. "The Ministry requested six months to look into two of our demands and pledged to call a meeting with the Treasury Secretary to address the rest of the demands last Thursday (19). However the meeting was rescheduled for Tuesday (24) only to be postponed to May 14," a disgruntled Bandara said. It shows the carelessness and disinterest of the Health Ministry, he said.

The duties allocated to PHIs include the control of communicable diseases, food sanitation, school health, occupational health, environmental health, waste management and health education.

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