By Somapala Gunadheera –
The threatened strike by the GMOA with the participation of several other TUs that have a debilitating grip on public life is likely to have a devastating effort on the common people. If the strike is extended, poor patients who cannot afford private medical attention will be groaning helplessly to their end on OPD benches. The damage to be caused by the other unions joining the strike goes without saying. The President and his Government should intervene without delay to avoid that calamity.
The solution proposed by the Medical Deans’ Association appears to be an amicable approach to the problem. According to papers they have made the following proposals at a meeting with the President, which had been attended by all parties that have a stake in the matter. Briefly the proposals are:-
- Stop admissions to SAITM with immediate effect
- Stop SAITM from granting an MBBS degree forthwith
- Legalise the minimum standards required for medical education
- Appoint a committee to bring about a fair solution for all the students who have got trapped in the SAITM
- The Health Minister should act on the technical report which was submitted on SAITM by a team from the Sri Lanka Medical Council
- The Higher Education Minister should make it clear that SAITM has not obtained a compliance certificate from the SLMC
It is heartening to hear that the GMOA had no objections to these proposals. Meanwhile the Association of Medical Specialists has pointed out that the SAITM issue has created many “unfavourable” outcomes to the national health system, the AMS has submitted a set of mal effects arising from this dilemma. They are.
- All state medical faculties are not functioning due to students boycotting lectures, clinical training and examinations, This can cause a delay in starting internship appointments
- A delay is caused to post internship appointments and admission of new students to state medical faculties.
- The CA judgment has exposed major weaknesses and lapses in the monitoring of medical education in our country. All these can give rise to long term and irrevocable losses to the national health system.
- Students who are already in SAITM with acceptable entry qualifications should be given an opportunity to complete their clinical training in SLMC-approved hospitals, until the SLMC is satisfied with the standards of clinical training in SAITM
- The ‘compliance certificate’ should be an essential pre-requisite to granting provisional registration for SAITM graduates
- The Advanced Level results of all students at SAITM should be scrutinised and those without the minimum entry qualifications asked to leave SAITM with compensation.
It would be kinder to give a chance to the students under-qualified in their basic education to refurbish themselves. In their reply to the above statements the SAITM has made a positive response stating,
- SAITM notes the progressive and constructive sentiments expressed in the Joint Statement of the Panel of Deans of State Medical Faculties
- SAITM fully endorses the Panel’s recommendations, for strong regulations to be enacted and implemented by the State, to supervise and regulate all Public and Private High Education Programmes.
- SAITM has at all times been amenable to supervision of their Medical Degree Programme by the State.
- Principles of Natural Justice had not been observed in not giving SAITM an opportunity to be heard prior to issuing the Joint Statement of the Panel of Deans.
- At the time SAITM was awarded its Degree Awarding status in 2011, there was no legal requirement to obtain a Compliance Certificate from SLMC or any specified Professional Body.
- SAITM responded to UGC on the recommendations to be “duly satisfied” after which the Degree awarding status was granted to SAITM in August 2011.
- The Panel has concluded that the Memorandum of Understanding dated 27/04/2011 with the Provincial Director of Health Services of the Western Province to provide Clinical, Surgical and other in house practical training and experience to its students to train in Government Hospitals was never implemented
It appears from the above statement of SAITM that they had had no resistance from the previous regime and the new dispensation has taken them by surprise in reading the Riot Act to them. Contrary to the position taken by the authorities that the GMOA had no status to intervene, it may be argued that they have an obligation to ensure the quality of their future members. All in all, a reading of the above statements does not reveal any insurmountable difference among the respective parties. SAITM has welcomed the main demand to broad base the venture.
All that is needed to remove the pending Diogenes’ sword on the people is for the interested parties to sit together and work out an amicable solution. Judging from past experience, the Precedent is the best suited to convene such a meeting. He has a unique way of bringing about peace among warring parties. It is earnestly hoped that he would act before the threatened bombshell explodes on the people.