Sri Lanka’s health sector strike paralyses hospital services

The health sector braces for major disruptions today as non-doctor employees initiate an island-wide strike starting at 8.00 am. 

Coordinated by 27 trade unions within the health domain, the massive strike is a response to the government’s decision to increase the Disturbance, Availability, and Transport (DAT) allowance exclusively for doctors.

Last week, token strikes by paramedical and supplementary health services’ unions caused significant disruptions in hospital services. In response, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) said that it strongly opposes the impending strike, labelling it unjustified. Dr. Haritha Aluthge, GMOA Secretary, noted that 50% of the wage demands by protesting trade unions have been fulfilled. However, he revealed that only 15% of the requested DAT allowance increment for doctors has been received, leading to ongoing demands for higher salaries.

“Their demand was to increase the salaries of government employees by Rs. 20,000. They have received Rs. 10,000 so far. It means that 50% of their demands are completed,” Dr. Aluthge said, criticizing the persistence of health workers for increased wages.

Notably, the All Ceylon Nurses’ Union refrains from participating in the strike, choosing instead to conduct a demonstration in front of government hospitals during lunchtime on the scheduled strike day.

In response to the mounting tensions, the Health Ministry invited trade union leaders for a meeting at 12 noon today to address grievances. While trade union representatives agreed to participate, they assert that the strike will not be called off unless a satisfactory solution is granted.