The usually crowded waiting rooms of the Colombo National Hospital (CNH) were deserted yesterday as the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and 100 other trade unions launched the 24 hour strike against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).
Thousands of patients seeking treatment at Government hospitals were left in the lurch. This comes in the wake of the AHINI outbreak and high Dengue prevalence in the Trincomalee and many other districts.
Patients caught unaware of the strike were turned away destitute and sent to private hospitals in the area.
“We came to the hospital at 10 a.m because my grandson is suffering from a very high fever. There is no one here to give us medicine so we are going to Nawaloka,” said W. Malani who had come to the National Hospital all the way from Wattala, not aware the doctors’ were on strike.
Hospital attendants and nurses at the National hospital were assigned to deal with patients and had to either turn patients away or dole out basic assistance.
“We are admitting patients but we have no doctors. Many patients know that there was a strike, so we haven’t had many, but those who were unaware are coming to hospital”, said a nurse at the OPD and Ambulatory Care Services of the Colombo National Hospital.
The cardiology Unit of the National Hospital, often packed with patients waiting to be served was empty except for a few who had been asked to come for a check-up that day.
Siththi Nazeera from Maligawatte found out about the strike once she got to hospital and was waiting for over an hour to get another date for her check-up.
“I stayed to change the date today otherwise I would have to come again just to get another date. Been waiting for over an hour for the nurse to give me a new date,”she said.
The Consultant doctors at the Cardiology Unit took to work in the wards despite the strike and the ICU functioned as normal.
The Daily News was informed that only the emergency operations and services were working.
The waiting area of the Cardiology Unit Dispensary which usually took hours to deal with patients too had slowed down.
“Patients who came yesterday and could not get their prescribed medicine have come today. There are no new patients,” a dispenser said.
Patients at the National Eye Hospital however have been the most affected as many have had to come to hospital for their scheduled clinic day.
“I had my eye operation a month ago. The doctor asked me to come today so he can tell me about the dos and don’ts of how to treat my eye. I want to ask him if it is finally safe to take a bath,” said Fathima Fauzer.
“This was my clinic day and we were asked to come today. We were not aware of the strike.
These doctors are simply wasting our time,”said P. Kusumawathi who had come to hospital from Bandaragama at 10am yesterday. Two hours later, she was still waiting for someone to check her eye.
“We are the ones who always suffer at the end of the day. We cannot stay here all day, we have to get back to our own work. These strikes are only fair by the doctors, not us,”she added. Lalitha Chandrawathie from Dehiwela, had her eye operated three weeks ago and had to come to hospital for new spectacles.
“I have no choice but to wait”, she said despite the fact that the doctors had called for a 24hour strike.
W.M.K. Sirisomage who was returning home to Panadura however saw the demands of the doctors asking for the shutdown of SAITM as being fair.
“They have been talking of their demands for some time; it is the government’s fault for not providing with an answer.
People would not strike on a whim”, he said even though he was returning home without having his eye test done and would have to come to hospital back again next week.
Though the GMOA had asked that their members not report to private practice, private hospitals such as Nawaloka and Asiri Central had no issues with doctors not turning up. The private hospitals, along with the De Soysa Hospital for Women and Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital functioned as normal.