Colombo National Hospital protests escalate: Calls for removal of Deputy Director intensify

The junior staff at Colombo National Hospital remain adamant of continuing their protests, demanding the removal of Deputy Director Dr. Rukshan Bellana. The action stems from Dr. Bellana’s criticism of the junior staff’s participation in a recent strike, organized by health trade unions to address allowance disparities.

On February 16th, Dr. Bellana was confined to his office by protesting junior staff members. The situation intensified as demonstrators gathered in front of the hospital, leading to the deployment of police anti-riot squads to secure the premises.

The protest is part of a broader dissent within the health sector, as 72 trade unions launched an island-wide strike, voicing their dissatisfaction with the unequal distribution of allowances—a move that Dr. Bellana openly criticized.

The strike, which highlighted the collective discontent of health sector professionals—including radiology and laboratory technicians, pharmacists, midwives, dental surgeons, public health inspectors, and entomology officers—was temporarily halted on February 14th. The pause came after Health Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana agreed to engage in discussions with the unions.

The protests were launched following the Cabinet’s decision to approve President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal, which doubled the Disturbance, Availability, and Transport (DAT) allowance for government doctors from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 70,000, further exacerbating the disparities within the health sector’s allowances.