The Public Services Nurses Union (PSNU) yesterday strongly claimed that sexual harassment of female staff members in both government and private hospitals caused a huge social problem and urged health authorities to initiate a probe into the matter.
President of the PSNU, Ven. Muruttetuwe Ananda Thera told The Nation that sexual harassment was being committed on rank of nurses downwards and such crime invariably went unreported. ‘As it is, it happens to be a serious issue that affects the smooth functioning of the health sector and I urge the authorities to address this issue at the earliest’, the Thera appealed.
The Ven. Thera was responding to a recent admission by Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena who claimed that female minor staff at hospitals in urban and rural areas under his ministry was subjected to sexual harassment.
Health authorities added they received at least ten complaints a week from female staff in hospitals on sexual harassment.
They noted that sexual harassment had even extended to patients and cited a case where a woman employee of an embassy in Colombo had complained to the police that she was recently sexually harassed by a doctor at a private hospital pretending to carry out a medical examination.
Meanwhile Our Staffer Carol Aloysius citing details of what transpired at a recent workshop for the media at the Family Planning Association quoted Dr Chitramalee De Silva, Deputy Director, Family Health Bureau as saying sexual harassment in hospitals was a new challenge and the Bureau had designed posters on the subject to be distributed to hospitals. ‘We will start distributing those posters from the Colombo National Hospital’, she said.
Officials present at the workshop had claimed the target group was more likely to be ranks of nurses, nurse aides, pupil nurses and supervisors.
Asked if there was any truth that doctors were involved in sexual abuse of patients, the officials flatly denied the charge.