Male nurse climbs tree in support of KTH matron, theatre sister


By Dilanthi Jayamanne

A male nurse, serving at the Kandy Teaching Hospital, yesterday climbed a tree and threatened to jump from it if the Health Ministry refused to revise its decision to remove a theatre sister and matron.

The Health Ministry took the decision following a protest by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) demanding that the theatre sister and matron be removed due to insubordination.

President of the All Ceylon Nurses’ Union (ACNU) S. B. Mediwatta yesterday said that nurses had been obstructing anaesthetists by using a room meant for patients who were to be anaesthetized, as a rest room. The need to ensure the germ-free condition of the theatre and the patients being taken into the theatre for operations had prompted the nurses to raise their voices against the demand made by anaesthetists.

Madiwatta said that the situation had prompted the Health Ministry to appoint a committee to look into the matter as the hospital administration seemed to be unable to settle the issue. The committee decided that it was unethical for the room to be utilised as a rest room. The doctors viewed the decision as an affront to them and launched a strike during the latter part of last month demanding disciplinary action against the theatre sister and the matron alleging insubordination.

The GMOA, which met the Health Minister and Secretary on Thursday (15), vowed they would not return to duty unless the theatre sister and the matron were removed from the unit. In response, the Health Ministry sent a fax to the hospital administration on the same day at 7.30 p.m. issuing instructions for the removal of the two.

The ACNU President said that the all three nursing unions had united to throw their weight behind the theatre sister and the matron.

Vice President of the Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU), D. Boralessa, when contacted for comment, said however that it was a nursing officer of the ACNU who had climbed the tree in protest. "However, we don’t condone such extreme measures of protest and appeal to him to come down," he said.

PSUNU Executive Committee member and Central Province Convener Shantha Illandara said that theatre nurses at the Kandy Teaching Hospital would initially protest against the decision taken by the Ministry by assisting in only emergency operations during the evening. They would refrain from helping all routine surgeries in the evening. The Union had also informed the Health Secretary and the management of their decision.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the GMOA Dr. Saman Karunatilake said the union had called off their strike following the Ministry decision to transfer the theatre sister and matron out of the unit. He said that theatre staff of the hospital were faced with a backlog of operations as a result of the GMOA-backed strike. The KTH performs approximately 2,500 to 5,000 operations per month. There were 30 surgeons and 20 theatres at the Kandy Teaching Hospital, Karunatilake added.

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