Sri Lanka doctors end three-day strike

Sri Lankan doctors ended a three-day strike following talks with the government, their professional association said Saturday, ending a crisis that had reportedly left tens of thousands of patients at state-run hospitals stranded. The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), the island's biggest trade union of doctors, had stopped work on Thursday to demand the government close down a private medical college established in 2008, protesting its allegedly poor standards of education. The shutdown left tens of thousands of mostly poor people who seek free medical care at state-run hospitals unable to access treatment until the GMOA called off the strike on Saturday afternoon following talks with President Maithripala Sirisena.



"The President agreed to take positive steps to improve medical education and the medical service," GMOA spokesman Samantha Ananda told reporters in Colombo, without offering further details. Although private health facilities remained open during the strike, many patients could not afford them, the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection said. Local media reports said the affected hospitals had turned away patients requiring emergency medical attention in some cases. "We will gather outside your homes and seek the help of gods to curse you and force you to return to work," the consumer rights group had said in an open letter to the striking doctors issued earlier. The group's chief Ranjith Vithanage told AFP that striking doctors should face criminal prosecutions over any deaths resulting from the action. Hundreds of students from state-run universities stormed the health ministry on Wednesday and smashed cars and furniture in a bid to pressure the government into closing the private medical college. The government has insisted that it will not interfere with people's freedom to choose private higher education. A GMOA official said doctors had opposed the establishment of the college in 2008, but could not protest at the time because they feared reprisals from the previous regime of president Mahinda Rajapakse.
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