Close to the tightly contested election of new office bearers of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), it has been shockingly disclosed in a Right to Information appeal filed by a citizen against the SLMC that the Annual Reports of the SLMC have not been printed or published for the past five years!
The last published Annual Report of the SLMC has been 2011. Lawyers appearing in this matter before the RTI Commission on Monday informed Colombo Telegraph that they had appealed to the Commission for the 2012-2016 Annual Reports as they wished to find out what policy decisions had been taken by the SLMC in regard to private medical institutions, including SAITM.
The SLMC had however taken up the position before the Commission that the Annual Reports could not be given as they had not been printed! It said that it was not under a legal obligation to print the Annual Reports!
‘The fact that this premier medical body in Sri Lanka could even put forward the claim without shame that its Annual Reports have not been printed for over five years even though it has to present these Reports to Parliament is beyond our imagination!’ said one of the lawyers to Colombo Telegraph.
The Sri Lanka Medical Council, headed at one time by the likes of Sir Nicholas Attygalle (June 1964-Dec. 1969), an eminent senator, academic and a surgeon, is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most elite medical institutions. It describes itself on its website as a statutory body established for the purpose of protecting health care seekers by ensuring the maintenance of academic and professional standards, discipline and ethical practice by health professionals who are registered with it. It has representation from medical faculties of state universities as well as from professionals in the state and private sector. One of its chief functions is to register practitioners engaged in providing healthcare.
The Council states its general duty as being to ‘protect the public and uphold the reputation of the profession.’ Its other duties include the maintaining and publishing registers of qualified persons in different categories to practise each discipline, prescribing the standard of education and standard of medical education, providing advice on professional conduct and medical ethics and taking action against those who are registered with the council if it appears that they have become unfit to practise and exercise the privileges of registration.
Due to the Council stating that it had no Annual Reports from 2012 onwards, the RTI Commission had ordered that the minutes of the meetings of the Council during the years in question for which the non-published Annual Reports relate to, reflecting policy decisions taken by the Council and notified in Annual Reports, be released to the appellant without including information relating to personal details of doctors or medical records. The Council had agreed to release the relevant portions of the minutes of its meetings starting from the year 2012. The SLMC elections are being conducted after a lapse of time, reports state.
There is also a tug-of-war between the heavily politicized Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) and the SLMC. The deterioration of standards in Sri Lanka’s professional institutions, including law and medicine during the past decades has been the subject of recent public attention and concern.