Docs oppose compromise formula to settle SAITM crisis

Urge govt not to recognize private medical colleges for five years

By Shamindra Ferdinando


Throwing its weight behind the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) spearheading high profile campaign against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), the

Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) pointed out the former had no objection to setting up of private medical colleges. GMOF President Dr Rukshan Bellana said that the GMOA accepted the setting up of private medical colleges during the previous SLFP-led UPFA administration though it changed its stance subsequently.

Dr. Bellana said the current crisis should be examined against the backdrop of difficulties experienced by the regulatory body Sri Lanka Medical council (SLMC) in respect of the SAITM widely known as the Malabe Private Medical College.

The decision to back GMOA was taken on Saturday. The GMOF declared that SAITM students should be compensated, arrangements should be made to allow them to complete degree elsewhere and sit for examination (earlier it was called Act 16) for registration to practice medicine in Sri Lanka, nationalise or shut down SAITM and private medical colleges shouldn’t be recognized for five years, he said.

Responding to a query, Dr Bellana alleged that SAITM had deceived the country regarding its eligibility to function as private medical institute. Bellana said that those who had enrolled their children there believing the institution enjoyed status of a fully fledged medical faculty. Bellana alleged the SAITM continued to deceive the public in a bid to attract students. Bellana expressed confidence that in spite of SAITM hiring public relations firms, the vast majority of people had now realized the massive fraud perpetrated by the private enterprise.

Dr Bellana emphasised that there couldn’t be any dispute over the GMOA’s stand that existing standards shouldn’t be lowered or rules and regulations diluted to facilitate SAITM or any other project.

Having failed to meet even the basic standards, the SAITM had challenged the authority of the regulatory body, Bellana said, alleging that the SAITM management and those who backed the project operated on the premise they were beyond regulatory mechanism. Obviously, they believed the media, too, could be manipulated and the project continued with political support, Bellana said. Their decision to take on the SLMC couldn’t be justified under any circumstances, Bellana said, SAITM tactics would never succeed.

The GMOF President pointed out that in spite of failing to secure SLMC recognition so far, the SAITM continued to entice new recruits by propagating lies that the enterprise had government approval. Various statements made by politicians backing the project couldn’t be interpreted as government approval, Bellana said, urging parents not to be misled by SAITM propaganda. "Those wanting to send their children to SAITM should keep in their mind that SLMC approval is mandatory."

Asked whether those who had been enrolled there could seek compensation from SAITM in case the project went awry, Dr Bellana said that at the onset of the operation the then administration should have ensured that the private institution deposited adequate funds with the government to pay back students. Unfortunately, the previous government pathetically failed in its duty to ensure SAITM management adhered with internationally practiced procedures. "The government has few options. It must either shut down or take over by the government and adequate compensation paid", he said.

Pointing out that the SLMC had very clearly over the years repeatedly announced that the SAITM lacked mandatory recognition, Dr. Bellana emphasized that Malabe undergraduates shouldn’t be recognized under any circumstances. In fact, the government should block new entrants until SAITM fulfilled SLMC requirements, Bellana said, alleging that various interested parties were were seeking to work out what he called a compromise formula. Bellana said that right thinking people wouldn’t accept doing away with or diluting the existing mandatory conditions to facilitate the SAITM project. Bellana said that private enterprises shouldn’t allowed at the expense of internationally acclaimed Sri Lanka medical qualification.

Bellana said that those wanting to maintain existing standards should oppose the SAITM project.

The GMOF also urged the government to conduct a thorough inquiry into an alleged attempt to kill SAITM CEO Dr. Sameera Senaratne. The government couldn’t turn a blind eye to a spate of statements that had been attributed to police officers as regards the credibility in Dr. Senaratne’s claim. Bellana pointed out that the reportage of the alleged attempt on SAITM CEO had underscored the necessity to find out the truth.

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