Fonseka to rule the unruly

In this country medical profession is higly respected. Within that western Medics come first.

Dr Senaka Bibile as an international figure is still respected in all four corners of the country. He was the founder of Sri Lanka's drug policy , which was used as a model for development of policies based on rational pharmaceutical use in other countries as well, by the WHO,UNCTAD and the Non Aligned Movement. He has been called the 'greatest medical benefactor of humanity that Lanka has hitherto produced'. To day the co founder of rationalist movement Carlo Fonseka dominates the profession as the head of medical council. GMOA was a respected trade union in the past; under the leadership of Sunil Rathnapriya, helped by Rajitha GMOA led the united front of trade unions in the health service. In turn it had a great influence within all unions in the country. Medical profession and other professions got their independence in the bougeise democratic revolution. Cromwell, Washington, Napoleon and others paved the way for independence of professions under official charters, preventing hindrance to creativity and experiment from religious, political and judcial powers.

Some try to define that under professional freedom the SAITM has the power to be the tuition master, himself conducts an exam and produces doctors according to Private degrees of the private medical college. This is absolute rubbish. Each profession is governed by a council of masters of the said profession. Only the masters of the profession can say what is good and bad in a particular profession. This is a great victory of the democratic revolution which led to experiment and creation that produced the modern world. Hence no one can get a degree from SAITM if the quality controller, the Sri Lanka Medical Council, says ‘poor quality.’ No law can force such recognition. Whether state, private or semi government created, no medial degree will be valid unless it is accepted and register in the Medical Council. SAITM cannot disempower people, because only medical council empower that institute. The issue is most certainly that there is assessment, there are ratings, and there are minimum standards that have to be met for purposes of accreditation.   ‘The SAITM issue’ is about accreditation. It’s about quality control. One can vilify the SLMC and argue about the quality of doctors produced by state universities, but one cannot shove under the carpet the issue of coherent and comprehensive assessment. There has to be a single authority in the business of regulation or else a coherent and comprehensive process of evaluation. Someone can claim that the SLMC is not perfect. That’s fine. The solution would be to improve the institution and the processes therein;  it is the duty of the elders of the profession to do it. The Government or the judiciary has no business to interfere.

GMOA cannot call a general strike because it is not a federation of all or substantial sections of the trade unions spread across the various professions and trades. Such a federation or united front of trade unions should cover all sectors, government, corporations, and private sector. The alliance made by the GMOA consisted of small unions in government education, railways and postal department. So called One day strike call was not answered by workers in other sectors except one or two, here and there. The important out come of this partial strike is the attention made by the public to the role of the GMOA. The medical officers’ union claims that with about fifteen thousand members it is one of the most powerful trade unions in Asia. Lanka is one of the rare countries where free medical service is available. People are making use of this facility with great respect to the doctors. They expect it to be there for them at any moment of misery and sickness. Hence any action of doctors could bring a calamity perhaps unheard of any other country. This mass veneration of poor people has become a ruthless weapon for the medical officers. When doctors are absent, masses become helpless. Strike is like doctors aiming guns at helpless patients.  

In Parliament, ministers exposed that the GMOA president and members, while pushing thousands of patients to helpless misery in public hospitals, were engaged in channeled practice at private hospitals in the evenings; some of them are known to be earning tens of thousands of rupees a day.  It is mainly the rich bourgeoisie who can afford this and the poor are left to suffer in silence or to die.  That means thousands of medical officers were involved in some sort of double standards -- no work for the poor people in public hospitals and more work for the well-to-do in private hospitals.  The GMOA appears to have become dictatorial and behaving like an underworld organization. Inevitably the suffering victims are poor patients. For the past few months, the GMOA leadership has been indulging in regular strikes demanding that the Government should take over the medical faculty of South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM). If they are against private university education then they should mobilize masses to oppose private university education. Though it is a slogan for a socialist society it has a consistency. Masses may believe the campaign is for a socialist society. However there is no such socialist campaign by the reckless inteligencia of the GMOA. They want to nationalize the medical faculty at SAITM but they are silent about the students already there.

President Maithripala Sirisena, speaking on this matter recently said he had a dialogue with all stakeholders on the SAITM issue and reassured the Government would find a solution which will be fair to all within the frame work of social capitalism. The President expressed regret that the GMOA was disregarding this move for a compromise within the accepted frame work and demanding that SAITM be taken over; if that was done, investors whether they be foreign or Lankan would have major questions about investing here.  The GMOA strikes and the regular demonstrations held by some other groups backed by Mahinda Chinthanaya have prompted the Government to consider a suggestion for a crackdown on sabotage actions launched under the pretext of strikes and demonstrations. Left oriented trade unions have suggested anti sabotage mass actions. One suggestion is that Sarath Fonseka, now a minister, could play a coordinating role as Peoples Martial in this move to ensure that essential services are not disrupted and tough action is taken in emergency situations. For this progressive trade unions and radical people’s organizations could work with the Martial Sarath Fonseka. If the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) is to launch an indefinite strike in all hospitals island-wide beginning from May 15 demanding the nationalization of SAITM the political struggle might come to the surface.


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