Nursing unions clash over promotion

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Government Nursing Officers Association yesterday warned that it would take legal action against, what it termed, the illegal promotion given to the Vice President of the rival Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU), D. Boralessa, violating the regulations of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Cabinet.

GNOA nurses of the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital (KTH) have been up in arms since last week against the promotion given to Boralessa, as he was on service extension for the third consecutive year having reached the age of 60 in 2010.

Branch President of the Government Nursing Officers’ Association (GNOA), A. G. N. Kumarasiri said yesterday that Boralessa had been appointed as a matron where as he should only be given a extension of service as a grade three nurse – which the Health Ministry did. However, the Health Secretary had issued instructions to continue to pay him the salary of a nurse, while assigning the authority and duties of a hospital matron.

The GNOA branch union had staged a walk out on Monday (08) morning which ended with a lunch hour picketing campaign demanding that the Ministry cancel immediately the appointment given to the PSUNU vice President. He warned that they would resort to further trade union action if the special grade service extension was not annulled immediately. The Health Ministry appointed him as grade III nurse initially. Last week, however, the Health Secretary instructed that Boralessa be paid the salary of a grade III nurse while assigning him the duties of a special grade nurse.

Kumarasiri alleged that Boralessa had turned 60 years of age in 2010 and had already served in the special nursing grade as administrator on contract basis for two years. He alleged that previously too the Ministry had pledged it would get PSC approval for the appointment.

The PSC only approved service extension for grade III nurses – even those who have served in administrative capacity are given service extensions to this category. This was due to the dearth of nurses in government hospitals. "There is a requirement for over 40,000 nurses while we have only 24,000 at present. The PSC gives nursing extensions as grade three nurses to fill the need," he said adding that nursing administrators, matrons and nursing sisters in hospitals were adequate.

Kumarsiri said that the striking nurses had maintained emergency services.

Meanwhile, PSUNU KTH Branch Assistant Secretary, D.H. Sunilpremana said that his union had protested against the GNOA taking the law into its hands and disrupting hospitals services.

The PSUNU branch protested till mid morning demanding that the Health Ministry take disciplinary action against the GNOA for disrupting hospital services and hindering the movement of patients and their relatives. The PSUNU is the largest nursing trade union in the country.

The Health Secretary could not be contacted for comment.

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