Health Secy. promises ‘walk in’ interviews to fill 100 plus Snr. Medical Admin. vacancies

Mere eye wash, says Medical Officers Forum



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BY SURESH PERERA


With Sri Lanka’s state health sector taking a battering over the continued failure to fill more than 100 senior medical administrative grade vacancies within this critically vital system, Health Ministry Secretary, Dr. Nihal Jayathilaka yesterday assured that ‘walk in’ interviews will be conducted early January 2014 to tide over this longstanding issue.


Admitting that the vacancies had remained unfilled for a long time, he said that after he assumed duties as the Secretary, the process of promoting medical administrators on merit had been effectively set in motion to streamline the health sector.


"The annual transfers will be placed on the web next week and interviews to promote senior medical administrators are scheduled for the second week of next month", he said.


"It will be done under a broad, one-day set up, where they can walk in for interviews and given an elevated placement based on merit", the Secretary noted. "Deputy medical administrators, who had completed three years, will also given the opportunity to ascend the ladder"


Dismissing these assurances as "mere eye wash", the Medical Officers Forum said that it had heard pledges of this nature ad nauseam.


With 100 plus vacancies remaining for years, there is virtual anarchy within the state health sector and the Secretary had failed to make a meaningful contribution to bring about order, the Forum charged. "Blue eyed boys are the biggest stumbling block".The Health Secretary took over one and a half years ago, but where are the results?", it asked. "The situation has gone from bad to worse".


The situation had prevailed for a long time, but is now being gradually rectified, Dr. Jayathilaka interjected. "We are doing it step by step".


Take the case of the Director, Lady Ridgeway Hospital, as an example. This premier children’s health facility has been functioning under an acting head for the past three years, the Forum pointed out.


Despite the Gampaha regional director of health being released by provincial director, Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva to head LRH as its permanent director, the order has not been implemented due to favoritism, it asserted. "The appointment is being blocked by the Secretary".


That’s not correct, Jayathilaka shot back. "The Governor has informed me in writing that he is not prepared to release the Gampaha regional director".


"As we exercise only administrative authority over senior medical administrators, the transfer cannot be done if the provincial Governor opposes it", he explained. "Otherwise, it could lead to trade union issues".


The tussle between the Secretary and the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) is an open secret and despite the new placement, the Secretary wants the LRH acting appointment to continue, the Forum claimed. "This is a sad state of affairs".


"We cannot do anything if the provincial government is against a transfer", Jayathilaka clarified.


Asked whether the interview for the appointment of a new Deputy Director General (Laboratory Services) was called off last Friday because the Public Service Commission had raised a query on an aspirant, the Secretary replied, "No, we had to postpone it due to some other commitments. The interview will be held by the end of this month".


Responding to allegations that one of the contenders had been caught fraudulently drawing the salary of a consultant specialist for some years, he said that an inquiry was conducted against Dr. Hemantha Beneragama (Director, Cosmetics Devices and Drugs Control Authority) and it was decided to recover the excess monies he had drawn without resorting to any punitive action.


Asked whether a senior government official can get away by merely paying back without any punishment under the regulations, he said "That was the decision arrived at the conclusion of the inquiry".


There was no such inquiry, the Forum countered. "This is hilarious as an official had been given the opportunity to repay on the lines of a zero interest scheme".


The Secretary is mandated to oversee policy issues and the DGHS, as head of the department, technical matters, but what we see now is a ‘supremacy battle’ with the wings of the latter clipped, it charged.


"We recall the services rendered by Secretaries of the caliber of Dr. Kahanda Liyanage and Dr. Ravindra Ruberu, who ensured the smooth functioning of the country’s health service", the Forum said. "What we see now is a total mess".


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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