Colombo Telegraph

SAITM Students Had No Psychiatry Or Community Medicine Training

By Sankalpa Marasinghe

Dr Sankalpa Marasinghe MD

On 30 December, 2017, Minister Lakshman Kiriella was visibly jubilant to make a revelation in front of a set of graduates from Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education (SLIATE). It was a statement embedded with sarcasm directed towards the students’ movement which stood opposing the grand plan to establish a fraudulent institute and grant recognition.

Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) had agreed to recognize the medical degree awarded by the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) with more than five weeks of clinical training, said Minister Lakshman Kiriella. 

“I say this to you because you are young and you can be misled…,” the minister continued.

Nothing could be further from truth and there was only one person who was misleading the students of Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education on that day, Minister Lakshman KIriella himself.

The Sri Lanka Medical Council has denied such a decision and as far as this writer could confirm no such decision was made to date at the Council of the SLMC. In fact, as the Registrar of the SLMC had explained, the council has appointed a subcommittee to look in to the possibility of a “bridging course” in an eventuality of SLMC being directed by the court of law to register those students who had already completed the course at SAITM.

The Committee comprises of Prof Narada Warnasuriya (Chairman), Prof Rezvi Sheriff, Prof Harsha Seneviratne, Prof Jennifer Perera, Dr S Raviraj, Prof Sisira Siribaddana and Prof Nilanthi de Silva (Rapporteur).

As far as it is known, this subcommittee has not produced a finalized report and the council has not agreed upon a final time frame for the possible bridging course.

On the above context comes the greatest revelation which for some strange reason was “hidden” from many inquiries conducted by relevant authorities. The writer reliably learned that two of the essential clinical components for the completion of MBBS degree; Community medicine and Psychiatry’ has not been completed by the students of SAITM.

In a letter dated January 4, 2018, Registrar SLMC has inquired from the relevant Regional Director of Health Services, Dr S M Arnold whether the training of Community Medicine for the students of SAITM was adequate or not?

The response forwarded by the regional director is a written submission by the Additional Medical Officer of Health, Kaduwela which states as follows.

“A community Medicine Appointment was not conducted for the students of SAITM by the MOH office Kaduwela.”

“None of the medical officers of MOH Kaduwela were involved in providing any training on Community Medicine for SAITM students”

Therefore, those students of SAITM who claim that they have completed MBBS have not done a community medicine training.

It is also learned very reliably that Dr Vajira Dharmawardene, Consultant Psychiatrist, has also responded to the query by the SLMC and stated that the students of SAITM had not done a proper Psychiatric appointment at B H Avissawella. He further adds that there is no Psychiatric ward at B H Avissawella and hence the students had no exposure to inward patients.

This revelation comes in the midst of SLMC trying to work out how much of a deficit should be covered to close the gap of “grave inadequacy of clinical training” of SAITM students who have supposedly completed their MBBS.

The subcommittee appointed by the SLMC to look in to the inadequacies of SAITM students in their clinical training has noted all these factors and will arrive at a probable time period of additional training if warranted. With the new revelation of entire clinical subjects being missed in the schedule the additional training required could span beyond two years.

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