*Amidst pressure by joint trade unionsApril 28, 2012, 5:43 pm
By Suresh perera
The controversial deputy director of the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital (SJGH), Dr. (Mrs) Chamila Ariyananda resigned last week amidst joint trade union action demanding her ouster over assertions that she "lacked even the basic qualifications for this top slot".
"Yes, she has stepped down", says Nimal Bandara, Chairman of this key semi-government medical facility. "The board of directors accepted her resignation on Friday".
Under the terms of the SJGH Act, the deputy director should be appointed by the board, but contrary to stipulated procedure, Dr. Ariyananda had been given clearance directly by the Health Ministry.
Infuriated over what they termed a "grossly irregular appointment", SJGH’s joint trade unions stepped up their protest campaign culminating with a ‘go slow’ after it was discovered that the deputy director’s personal file contained only her application and birth certificate. She had failed to meet the gazetted criteria for the job.
Chairman Bandara had disassociated himself with the appointment and told trade unions he had "nothing to do with an issue which was decided upon by the Ministry".
This time the board will interview and select a successor, he assured. "The vacancy will first have to be gazetted".
It was no secret that Dr. Ariyananda had the backing of the powers-that-be to take over this responsible position despite not having the mandatory Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) registration at the time of her appointment, officials charged. "That’s the crux of the matter".
"We are closely watching ongoing developments", says Chandana Jayalath, Secretary, All-Ceylon Health Employees Union (ACHEU). "There could be more to it than meets the eye".
He said there are rumblings on moves to push up the salaries of certain employees who were close to the outgoing deputy director. "We will fight tooth and nail against any such discrimination".
"The Chairman has given us an assurance that won’t happen", Jayalath said. "Well, if it does, we won’t take it lying down".
He said that SJGH suffered a Rs. 27 million loss in 2011 in comparison to the Rs. 60 million profit this 1,040-bed hospital made during the tenure of the previous board of directors in 2010.
"The then board was dissolved on the basis it was ‘corrupt’ but the so-called ‘clean’ board which replaced it has sent the hospital nose-diving", Jayalath asserted. "Losses are likely to mount under this set-up".
With administrative hiccups and trade union action exacerbating the crisis at SJGH, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena is on record saying this key medical facility may have to be converted into a government-run General Hospital to tide over the disturbing situation.