SAITM ownership to be broad based with listing in the Stock Exchange - Govt

By Shamindra Ferdinando


The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration yesterday claimed that steps were being taken to list SAITM (South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine) in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) in response to ongoing wave of protests spearheaded by the GMOA. The government also said that SAITM proprietor Dr Neville Fernando had been told to place the administration under a board of directors.

President Maithripala Sirisena, Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella and Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne yesterday briefed the media regarding ongoing efforts to address concerns of the GMOA, undergraduates and other stakeholders.

Addressing the media at the Presidential Secretariat, they said that the above mentioned measures were in addition to the proposals recently presented in parliament.

The proposals were (1) SAITM students who have already passed the final MBBS examination would be given a further period of clinical training in Surgery, Medicine, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Psychiatry and Paediatrics, one month each in duration, at the Homagama and Avissawella hospitals. (2) Subsequent to this training, candidates would undergo a mandatory examination conducted for granting provisional registration under the joint supervision of the SLMC and the University Grant Commission. (3) Ministry of Health would gazette the minimum standards for medical education in Sri Lanka submitted by the SLMC with the approval of AG. (4) Ministry of Health would initiate the proceedings to bring the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital under the Ministry of Health and continue to run it as a teaching hospital.

Minister Kiriella explained that SAITM received state backing during the previous administration with the then government making available Rs 600 mn loan. Minister Kiriella said that Dr. Fernando was ready to broad base the ownership of the educational institute.

Dr. Rajitha Senaratne rapped some former and present members of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) for changing their stand on SAITM due to various reasons. The health minister pointed out that the SLMC had so far failed to reach consensus on minimum standards and was also partly to be blamed for the current situation.

Responding to a media query, Dr Senaratne emphasized that Sri Lanka wouldn’t give up its policy on private higher education. Claiming that a foreign university was ready to invest as much as USD 1.3 bn, Dr. Senaratne warned of dire consequences if the government abandoned its policy on private higher education institutions.

The government flayed the GMOA for not cooperating with its efforts to rectify shortcomings at SAITM. The health minister acknowledged that tangible measures had to be taken to provide clinical training to those enrolled there at state-run hospitals. The minister admitted that Dr. Neville Fernando hospital in spite of having over 1,000 beds hadn’t been able to attract patients.

Dr. Senaratne insisted that SAITM students, too, should be given facilities available to Kotelawela Defence University medical faculty. The UNPer alleged that the GMOA remained silent over special status given to the KDU due its fear of the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

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