Heart surgeons still on strike

By Dilanthi Jayamanne

Cardiac surgeons of the Kandy Hospital continued to strike despite Dr. Rajitha de Silva, the allegedly junior cardio thoracic surgeon, vacating his post at the NHSL Cardio Thoracic Unit as demanded by them and joining Sri Jayawarddenapura Teaching Hospital (SJTH) over the weekend, informed medical sources said last night.

Vice President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Dr. Saman Karunatilake said that cardiac Surgeons of the Kandy Teaching Hospital, who were on strike for over a week, indicated yesterday that they would step in and assist the cardiology unit of the Colombo NHSL only if the junior Cardio thoracic surgeon at NHSL resigned from government service and joined the Jayawardenapura Teaching Hospital.

He alleged that the presence of the junior cardio thoracic surgeon had been preventing any other senior cardiac surgeon from applying for the position at the NHSL. As it was there were very few MBBS qualified doctors who were willing to specialise in cardio thoracic surgery. Poor remuneration, the possibility of having to serve in peripheries for long periods and the commitment were factors which made them give it a second thought.

Responding to questions, Dr. Karunatilake said that either the Kandy or Karapitiya hospitals should send one of their senior cardio thoracic surgeons to Lady Ridgeway Hospital or the NHSL. Instead, Dr. Silva had been filling in the position for over six months. The Kandy GMOA branch held discussion with the Health Ministry but nothing was done to rectify the situation, he said.

The NHSL revealed last Friday that that one of the four cardiac surgeons attached to the NHSL was unable to take up his appointment at Sri Jayewardenepura Teaching Hospital (SJTH) as the cardiologists of Kandy and Karapitiya Hospitals were refusing to accept the position at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children. The doctors in Kandy claimed that Dr. Rajitha de Silva, who was temporarily filling the vacant position for a cardiac thoracic surgeon at the NHSL, was junior and therefore not eligible for the position. Dr. de Silva, had been filling in the position and had been given an appointment at SJTH, while Dr. Iresh Wijemanne, who was the Cardiac surgeon at LRH, had been given a transfer to the NHSL Cardio thoracic Unit. However, the Children’s hospital was unwilling to release him till they received a surgeon from Kandy or Karapitiya.

An informed NHSL spokesman said that only three cardiac surgery theatres out of four were working yesterday morning. The NHSL had a waiting list of six months. "The staff of the two theatres were not sure if the other surgeon had joined the Kandy strike or not, he said.

Meanwhile, the Acting Director of the NHSL, Dr. Cyril de Silva said that a cardiothoracic surgeon from, LRH would be filling in the position. There was a minor delay as Dr. de Silva took up his position over the weekend and there should be time for the surgeon from LRH to take up his position at NHSL, he added.

The LRH Director, Dr. Ratnasiri Hewage when contacted said that the Health Secretary had agreed to provide a cardiothoracic surgeon to the Children’s Hospital on contract basis. As a result one of the senior cardiothoracic surgeons from LRH was released to NHSL, he said.

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