Lessons of SAITM



W. PATHIRANA, Retired academic

An unnecessary problem has cropped up at the new private medical college at Malabe. This can be traced to want of respect for the legal basis on which any medical unit, small or big, involving health care is run anywhere in the world. There are many arguments for and against the institute all of which are partly valid. The institute, students and the academics are already enjoying the universal right to education at the institute, but not the right to practice in the licensed profession of medicine. This is what the approval by the UGC permits. Within the conditions of approval, SAITM is free to award degrees to any number of graduates. Hence there is no need to repeat about the right to education. However, these are raw table top academic degrees not necessarily ripe to handle the demands of an intricate medical practice.

The established medical profession has rightly raised its concerns about the deficiencies at the institute, which weighs against the SAITM. This is why the institute is seeking clinical training for their undergraduates in government institutes.

The institute’s administration should have made a distinction between licensed and non-licensed professions, as well as the functions between UGC and SLMC, before venturing in to the project. All professions included in the health sciences are licensed professions, where following the academic qualification, one has to register with the appropriate authority to practice their profession which is the Sri Lanka Medical Council. A glance through the Medical Ordinance shows many such ‘Registers’ for the purpose. This essentially requires rigorous ‘hands on’ training at the bedside. This is where the SAITM is stuck. It was in bad taste that in their full page advertorials they hid this fact from the public. The Sri Lanka Medical Council deserves credit for standing by the letter and spirit of the laid down regulations in governing its functions.

No one should be allowed to creep through these stringent requirements. SAITM must be aware of the upcoming developments in medical practice. The policy of limiting the validity period of ‘License to Practice’ was mooted some time back, meaning that physicians are not privileged to practice for life with a single once and for all registration. This is a long felt requirement where at the end of the stipulated period, the practitioner is subjected to an efficiency bar to test if one has been in actual practice, kept abreast of new developments in diseases, drugs, devices, practices, continuing education and techniques. If unsatisfactory, the license is not renewed. For a start, registrations of all non-practicing individuals, such as medical administrators, must be withdrawn. The message is that you hard to earn the registration to practice and keep swimming upstream to retain it. I am sure that the undergraduates there must be aspiring to be thoroughbred practitioners not second to anyone.

SAITM must strive to live up to the demands of modern medical education and practice, rather than attempt to bulldoze into acceptance by the fancy media imaging, advertorials and hinting that such and such great personalities are connected to the institute. The management must have now realized that doing the right thing could have been much easier with all requirements available transparently handy to anyone. Society is the most important factor in healthcare.

There are laws, regulations, authorities and institutes in the modern world to look in to various critical areas of a country, and these have to be respected regardless that one belongs to the private sector or government. With the right attitude, SAITM will be able to summon fresh energy to fall in line. All are apprehensive even at the mere hint that quality of medical practice is falling even by a whiff.

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