234 health volunteers, who have been serving the Jaffna Teaching Hospital for more than 5 years, have been agitating for the past 8 days in front of the hospital demanding permanent employment as the occupying Colombo government has created a new ‘development’ outfit named ‘Jaffna Hospital Development Society’, which has been attempting to fill the vacancies of porters and other assisting employees with persons favoured by EPDP paramilitary. On Thursday, when the volunteers decided to step up their agitation into fast-unto-death campaign the SL ‘Military’ Governor in North, Maj Gen (retd) GA Chandrasiri has threatened the volunteers to give up their strike, medical sources in Jaffna said.
The health volunteers have been helping the hospital during the times of war and were only receiving around 134 rupees (1 USD) per day through first aid charities such as St Johns Ambulance.
Most of them are family members who are dependent on the income they get from the ‘volunteer’ work.
The administration of the Teaching Hospital of Jaffna falls under the ‘Central Government’ in Colombo.
In the meantime, the recently established ‘development’ outfit has favoured EPDP supporters to be employed for the announced vacancies.
The volunteers who have been serving the hospital from admitting patients to wards to taking care of transport and supply work as demanded by the medical wards launched a protest demanding that the health volunteers who have been serving the hospital should be given preference in the employment.
The EPDP-backed outfit in turn responded with demanding educational qualifications to side-line most of the volunteers from permanent employment.
However, due to the continued struggle, the health ministry officials offered to reserve 80 posts to the volunteers. However, the allocation only covered 20 of the 234, the volunteers said vowing to step up the protest until an acceptable number of posts were allocated to the volunteers.
Earlier this week, EPDP’s Jaffna District Organiser K.V. Kuhendran alias Jehan, created controversy when he threatened the protesters telling them that SL military personnel would be used as volunteers if the volunteer workers didn’t call off the protest.
On Thursday, Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran, who was seen at the hospital, disappointed the protesters as he failed to visit the scene of the protest.
However, Dr. P. Sathiyalingam,the NPC Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine, who met the protesters told them that NPC had no say in the matter as their employment issue comes under the Sri Lankan Health Ministry in Colombo.