No more GMOA for SAITM-related discussions, Rajitha claims

Thursday, 29 June 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Chathuri Dissanayake

Adding yet another plot twist to the SAITM saga, Cabinet Co-spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne yesterday claimed that the meeting held between President Maithripala Sirisena and the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) was a “secret” one with no records taken of the event, while insisting that going forward the trade union would not be called for discussions on the matter. 

“Yesterday the President told the Cabinet that the meeting held with the GMOA was a secret meeting. He told them right at the beginning that it was such. They agreed. There are no discussion minutes, no photographs and no videos. There is no record at all,” the Health Minister told journalists at the weekly Cabinet briefing. 

In the same conversation however the Minister accused the GMOA of lying. Quoting the President, he claimed that no meeting was held with the Secretary or “even with an Additional Secretary.” 

Last Saturday trade union action taken by the GMOA protesting the assault on demonstrating university students was called off following discussions with the President. The President’s office subsequently released a statement on the Government’s proposed course of action on the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine and its hospital, the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital. 

Recounting the discussion, Senaratne said that the unanimous opinion of the Cabinet was to not involve the GMOA in future discussions on the issue. 

“Minister Champika Ranawaka said that future discussions should not involve a trade union. He also said decisions regarding the matter should be taken in consultation with academics, deans of faculties and if needed the Association of Medical Specialists. This is the opinion of all the Ministers in the Cabinet,” he said. 

Confident that the next trade union action taken by the GMOA would not be successful, the Health Minister said that a number of new medical officer associations have informed him to work against any strike. 

“A large number of doctors are lining up against the GMOA. One group came to meet me yesterday. The Wayamba, North Central and Southern provinces have joined together to work against the political agenda of the GMOA,” he said. 

Explaining the decision of the Government, the Minister stated that SAITM will not be taken over by the Government. 

Further clarifying the decisions made by the Cabinet of Ministers on the issue, Cabinet Co-spokesperson Dayasiri Jayasekara said the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital will be entirely taken over by the Government after the loan obtained by the institution from the Bank of Ceylon is paid in full during the next 10 years. According to the Cabinet decision made on Tuesday, the Ministry will follow an administrative model similar to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital to manage the hospital. The hospital, valued at Rs. 3.55 billion. 

Calling the student protesters “terrorists”, the Minister justified the assault on the students last week.  He said that all students arrested under the Public Property Act for damaging Health Ministry property will not gain bail until the cases against them end.