Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) is one of the leading trade unions in Sri Lanka. The association, which is quite proactive, has been praised and sometimes criticized by medical community.
At present, the GMOA appears to be working with the subject minister with contradictory opinions. It is uncertain whether they are still able to reach any mutual agreements.
The medical community accuses the GMOA of ignoring issues that exist in their own field and intervening in national level issues in the country – that is the most serious accusation levelled against the GMOA. The GMOA is further accused of creating disputes between the GMOA and the subject minister, especially during the past four years.
Amid these accusations, the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) came out on 7th February against the GMOA, levelling more accusations against and challenging the GMOA. The GMOF clearly emphasizes that the GMOA is working towards attaining personal and political goals, disregarding its professional reputation.
Lanka News Web (LNW) spoke to the President of the GMOF, Dr. Rukshan Bellana to find out the root causes of disputes between trade unions.
Padeniya wants to become the Health Minister
Dr. Rukshan Bellana said GMOA President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya is using the trade union to create his future political image. He questioned how a trade union can be used for personal objectives, adding that it is not the expectation of the general medical community.
The GMOA must act proactively in order to resolve issues faced by healthcare practitioners, he added.
He stated: “As a matter of fact, this situation didn’t arise suddenly. It developed gradually. From 2000 to 2003, and in 2004, I held certain positions in the GMOA. Some of us had problems with the conduct of present GMOA President and the then GMOA Secretary, Dr Padeniya. It was apparent to us that he had his own journey. We expressed our opposition, and left.”
“Doctors have their own issues, and eventually we realized that the GMOA, led by Dr. Padeniya, cannot resolve those issues. It was clear to us and the country. We attempt, through our new organization registered in 2014, to find solutions to issues faced by doctors.”
Padeniya fights with minister because of his incapability
Dr. Rukshan Bellana says that the GMOA, during the past four years, did not intervene to resolve any of the day-to-day issues faced by doctors, and thereby it has failed. In a bid to conceal their incapability, they are continuously trying to create disputes with the subject minister, he opined.
“It didn’t achieve anything for four years. Doctors have a lot of issues, which vary from area to area, and from hospital to hospital. Doctors deal with very unpleasant issues in their workplaces. In addition to conditions in which they work, they don’t have parking spaces within hospital premises. For example, a doctor who is required to commence his duties at 8 am, has to go to the hospital around 7 am to find a vacant parking space. Rest rooms also have low facilities,” he added.
“Hospitals in Sri Lanka deal with various problems. Doctors demand answers to their problems, but GMOA, especially its head Dr. Padeniya, speak of ECTA agreement, Singapore-Sri Lanka FTA and the 20th Amendment. Doctors’ basic problems have become normal problems. So we thought to form our own organization to discuss doctors’ real issues.”
Find out what happens to 84 million
The GMOA has been misappropriating its members’ funds, Dr. Bellana alleged.
“Around 40 million wasted a year; for what? They used to charge Rs. 2,000 from members, and now, claiming that it is insufficient, they have increased the fee up to Rs. 4,000. Next year’s revenue will be 84 million. Find out what happens to this 84 million?”
“They pay 30 – 40 lakhs to certain lawyers. The membership of some members have been revoked for speaking against the GMOA. I also faced such a situation. I filed a case, and I won. But the GMOA had spent 36 lakhs for the case. However, finally we learnt that the entire sum of 36 lakhs was not paid only to lawyers. Lawyers’ fee may be around 10 lakhs; but some officers, after paying lawyers via the association’s checks, got some money back as commission. There are more similar misappropriations. Otherwise 42 million would not be needed to run the association. In our time, we worked voluntarily, spending our money. Dr. Padeniya has created followers who depend on that money. It has become an extra income for them, therefore, they too are trying to protect Padeniya,” Dr. Bellana said.
Did Rajitha investigate kidney racket? No. Did he investigate foreign exchange scam? No.
Dr. Rukshan Bellana says although GMOA members’ corruptions and malpractices could be clearly seen, even Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne has not investigated those activities.
The controversial kidney racket and also foreign exchange fraud charges against Dr. Padeniya have not been investigated, he added.
He went on to state that even though Dr. Padeniya had acted in a fraudulent manner in the 2002 cut-off examination, a proper investigation has not been launched with that regard.
SAITM became a problem to GMOA after 2015
He further stated: “If certain matters that were not raised against the government from 2010 to 2015 are highlighted after 2015, we can’t accept that. The SAITM issue, for example, became a problem to the GMOA after 2015.”
“70 per cent of taxes imposed on doctors’ car permits are paid. It’s not duty free. But doctors want that facility to travel to work. There are circulars that require doctors to be available to be present at hospitals within 20 minutes. The government must provide either vehicles or permits. In 1970s, duty free permits were given only for doctors, taking into account the nature of their duties. But today, permits are given to every executive grade official. But we can’t accept permits not being given to doctors because it’s costly. We must be able to fight for it. They fight for ECTA and Singapore FTA. We have to intervene.”
GMOF President Dr. Rukshan Bellana further pointed out that the GMOA does not intervene to resolve the issues in the medical profession and in the country’s health service.
Ashika Brahmana / Nishantha Priyadarshana