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PM orders recruitment of retired nurses on contractual basis for Covid battle

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi to re-employ retired nurses on contractual basis if necessary, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The Prime Minister issued this directive, on Wednesday, during a meeting at Temple Trees to discuss issues in the nursing service at the request of the chairman of the Public Service United Nurses Union, Ven. Murutthettuwe Ananda Nayaka Thera.

There are about 34,000 serving nurses countrywide and the purpose of this meeting was to discuss short-term and long-term solutions to the problems they are facing.

At the meeting, Ven. Murutthettuwe Ananda Nayaka Thera expressed his views on increasing the allowances, etc., given to nurses. He also complained that untrained nurses were working in the Intensive Care Unit of the Kotelawala Defence University Hospital and the Neville Fernando Hospital.

Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi said that the situation had arisen due to the fact that at present because fewer than 2,000 nurses were recruited for training per year.

The Prime Minister directed the Health Minister to introduce a short-term intensive care training programme for nurses.

Secretary to the Ministry of Health Dr. S. H. Munasinghe said that 840 nurses had already been given short-term training in intensive care units and a programme would be implemented for nearly 1,000 more.

Dr. Munasinghe said that a Cabinet memorandum seeking the extension of the retirement age of nurses to 63 years had been submitted for approval.

The Prime Minister recalled that all the health workers were doing an excellent job in the face of the Covid epidemic and asked the Secretary to the Ministry of Health about their vaccination programme.

Secretary to the Ministry of Health, said that almost everyone in the health sector had been vaccinated against Covid-19 and a programme to give their families booster doses had got underway.

The Prime Minister also instructed the officials to formulate a proper system for providing transport facilities to the nurses during the lockdown.

The Prime Minister also instructed the Minister of Health to take necessary steps to expedite the process of awarding nursing degrees. He was informed that the matter had been referred to the Attorney General’s Department for drafts.

The PM the relevant draft would be presented to Parliament expeditiously.

Ven. Murutthettuwe Ananda Nayaka Thera said that the allowance for nurses’ uniforms had not been increased since the previous Rajapaksa government. He requested that the allowance be increased. The Prime Minister said that a common decision in that regard could be taken in the forthcoming budget.

Gamini Senarath, Secretary to the Prime Minister, S.R. Attygalle, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Director General of Health Services, and H. A. D. Kalyani, General Secretary of the Public Service United Nurses Association, and other members of the union were also present at the discussion.



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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers

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Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb

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One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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