24 September, 2019

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Stop Deadlock In Medical Education

By Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

The SAITM crisis has brought normal medical education in this country to a standstill. Students studying medicine in the medical faculties have absented themselves from lectures from the beginning of this year, as a protest against the decision to award medical degrees to SAITM products that they claim to be unqualified to receive such awards. The hiatus created in their studies by this standoff is bound to create an unbridgeable gap in their carrier that would accrue to their disadvantage for life, even after the dispute is resolved. In the meantime, the medical students at the SATIM who have been challenged by the strikers continue their studies unabated, thus gaining an advantage that would place them ahead of their protesters, when the dispute is resolved at last. As a sequel to this confrontation, hapless patients in government hospitals are being held to ransom over this issue admittedly, in their own interest.

In their protest campaign, the students of the medical faculties appear to be cutting their nose to spite the face of their counterparts at the SAITM. They are on a campaign to convince the general public that medical education given by the SAITM is not in the best interests of the people. Their time and energy is fully concentrated on an island-wide effort but it is doubtful whether the net-gain from their campaign would be worth the sacrifice devoted to the effort. The issues involved are far removed from the life interests of the people at a time when they are struggling to make both ends meet amidst a cacophony of pious promises by their leaders. So much so that cynicism is fast becoming the order of the day. The man in the street does not appear to see anything tangible happening to cater to his immediate burning problems. For him SAITM is a far cry.

The GMOA is fighting a relentless battle to put an end to the medical education given by the SAITM. They appear to have sprung into action only after the Court of Appeal endorsed the plea of the SAITM graduates for registration with the Medical Council. Of course, the GMOA’s arguments against registration deserve serious consideration. The question however, is why they slept over these issues for years allowing hundreds of students to devote the prime of their lives on the impugned course of studies and their parents to spend their hard earned money on a venture whose collapse would frustrate their costly investments. Both the GMOA and the investors at the SAITM should realize that they have worked themselves into a corner by not raising effective objections and finalizing matters in due time. It is a reflection on the Government to have allowed this dispute to get out of hand, without taking necessary steps at the proper time to avoid the present deadlock. Even at this moment the rulers appear to take a grandstand view of the situation, doing little to resolve it, except by word of mouth and applying the remedy for all seasons, calling for reports.

What all stake holders must realize is that with the SAITM issue, we are up against a problem from which we cannot run away without substantial confusion in our society. The need of the hour is to take a pragmatic view of the situation and make a positive approach to solve it. There is much substance in the objections of the GMOA to recognizing the medical degrees awarded by the SAITM as outlined below:

  1. The SAITM private medical college has failed to comply with the standards stipulated by the SLMC and disregarded the SLMC public notices cum warnings.
  2. They do not possess BOI, UGC or any other legally sound approval.
  3. Medical council guidelines, such as a well-established hospital complex, fulfilling minimum standards, prior to recruitment of medical students have not been satisfied fully.

Strictly speaking, a medical degree cannot be awarded under these circumstances but if we keep arguing on these lines until the cows come home we will never be able to resolve this problem. It is too late in the day now to rectify the commissions and omissions of the past. An attempt to do so would ultimately result in putting hundreds of students who went through this course in good faith, in the lurch. The regulatory authorities who permitted this deviation without checking it under the powers available to them for whatever reason have to assume moral responsibility to resolve it with minimum damage to all interests involved. To my mind, the best way to do this is to get those passing out of SAITM to sit the final exam prescribed for government medical faculties. Students from SAITM who pass that exam will join the medical profession without discrimination. Those who fail of course will suffer the normal consequences of failure, similar to the insiders who fail their finals. This is normal procedure followed by foreign graduates who wish to enter the medical profession here. Of course SAITM is not a foreign University but the situation demands that we ignore niceties and cut corners to get over the mess we have created through negligence. The authorities should bear the responsibility for providing essential facilities missed by the students from the SAITM, if any.

It should be understood that this is a once and for all arrangement to accommodate those who are already caught up in the SAITM debacle, for no fault of their own. It involves a reliable test to ascertain suitability to join the medical profession, guaranteeing the safety of would-be patients. Besides it will not be the only instance where those who have passed their finals, sit a public exam to join a profession. Law students who pass out of law faculties of Universities have to pass the final examination of the Law College before they join the legal profession. However it is important to agree that this ad hoc arrangement would apply only to those who are already following a medical degree at the SAITM. No new recruitments should be made to that institution until it satisfies all the necessary conditions laid down by the applicable authorities.

I am not sure whether the authorities responsible for the current deadlock over the SAITM medical degree would get up from their slumber, at least at this late stage, to bring the matter to an amicable settlement, thus preventing a growing challenge to the development of medical education in this country. The more probable solution to the dispute is likely to stem from a positive settlement worked out by the Supreme Court when the Appeal Court judgement on the SAITM Case goes up there. I keep my fingers crossed for all the stakeholders to this dispute to come together at that stage and help resolve it by compromise, in the larger interests of the nation.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    3

    These type of crisis are due to corrupt politicians going wild. First of all take away the powers vested in Ministers to decide on anything to with the criteria of intake of students for medical education. If the students of SAITM did not have proper qualification in par with medical student intake ethics, then let them comply with the requirements and then restart the education again. SAITM should be taken over by Govt. and converted to Post Graduate Medical training institution cum hospital especially concentrating in insect based infections and CKD.

    • 5
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      Somapala Gunadheera

      RE: Stop Deadlock In Medical Education

      The corruption in Sri Lankan Society has spread everywhere.

      From Politicians, to monks, to priests , o Mullahs, Ulama to Doctors, etc.

      It is all about their self-interest and maintaining their hegemony.

      SAITIM is no different. Even JVP has joined the bandwagon and making use of Duty Free Imports.

  • 9
    2

    Nobody will succeed standing on the way of introduction of private colleges. If it is permittable for IT, Engineering, Accountancy or the like fields, if the demand is there, why not also for Medicine. But approval of state organisations should be given to them by imposing all the steps in the maintenance of the quality of the degree.
    State and PVT degree awardees should all have been subjected to a common assesment. Due to lack of placements in limited medical faculties available in the country sofar, only less than 1500 students are enrolled in each year to local state medical faculties. Even if the state would double the numbers in coming years, that would not be beyond 3000 in a year. However, the candidates getting through ALevels even if they would meet with the eligible criteria to become a medical student, they have to drop down their ambitions due to lack of placements for them. Some of them only could afford to leave the country for Europe, USA or Australia intending their studies. Still significant numbers remain inthe country – they become hopless about their future.
    So, a country of our nature, with majority being poor, would be a dream to spend that much on the west for their degrees. In that case, PVT colleges to open their branches inthe country, but being very strict with the quality standards, can open them the door – still for some only that can affort a medical degree course being enrolled to a pvt college, but with the guarantee the degree is equally recognized as is one awarded by state universities.
    In the same time, state univesities should bring laws their students to have signed for a bond, since their education is going to be free- by the tax payers funds.
    Medical degree courses are highly expensive- those who pass out should work the manner some candidates in GMOA or MC act today, since they are indebted to lanken tax payers to have allowed them their degrees.
    And also, the state should also see how they could provide the loans withthe students, if they want to go for studying degree courses at pvt colleges.
    We cant stand on their way, not allowing them to go for PVT colleges, if those colleges unlike SAITM, but fully promise of their degree course conducted by them being compliant to local standards.

    Above all, LAW AND ORDER of the country should be strengtheneded allowing no culprits and opportunists to create new form of problems.

    • 9
      1

      Those who get their Medical degrees at STATE univsersities should never react the manner current GMOA men do, since they behaves so adamant not thinkingabout the need of the hour.
      These men under Paddeniya was very servile to brutal Rajaakshe regime, if Rajapaksne oordered them to spice his extrementa, these men would have done so, to please them. They should have been offered enough perks them to betray the academics that way.
      That is how the SAITM was got passed in the highly corrupted Rajaakshe regime.
      Alone thoese men of GMOA, stood against the current govt, just because their children were not given place at colombo schools. According to them, they should all be placed on an altar just because they are MBBS holders.
      Unfortuantley, these men have forgotten that their degrees were financed by tax payers funds.
      Please friends, we have to stand against GMOA and corrupted and highly abusive men if we have to protect this country.

  • 5
    1

    Typo

    Medical degree courses are highly expensive- those who passed out should NOT work the manner some candidates in GMOA or MC act today, since they are indebted to lanken tax payers to have allowed them their degrees.

  • 5
    2

    The quality of all the Sri Lankan Medical faculties must be checked by foreign expert panel. Not the SLMC. Then you will see problem not with SAITEM it is with public Universities medical faculties. Fake professorships, bad governance, Heads and Deans are the most junior and least qualified people and catchers of VCs. The current University system is a hell of corruption and bad governance. Seniority never respected in the system. VCs are the responsible for this disaster. See University act. It says VC can appoint anybody for Head position. Not even in hell such rule does exist.

  • 0
    0

    This SAITM crisis is spreading its wings in a different direction now. I was watching a TV telecast aired in an open field in a remote village, where the participants were the villagers. They were discussing the problems faced by the village inhabitants. One major subject was the lack of provision of Medical facilities. The only Govt. hospital is non functional because there are no doctors and they now travel to the next hospital, miles away. Incidentally one participant started talking about SAITM and he was expressing his objection to getting a doctors from SAITM. Just forget the for and against arguments relating to SAITM; but think of how far this has gone to be discussed at remote village levels and that also mainly not in favor of the doctors passed out of this Institution. This is a very dangerous social development, in that, the people are now getting accustomed to “segregate” two camps of doctors, viz “SAITM Doctors” and “Govt. Doctors. This “Thinking” is already getting a foothold in the Medical Field too. This “Fight” if allowed to go on like this, it will definitely lead to an ugly situation of creating a “Caste System” (pl excuse me for using that term) in segregating the Medical Services , viz. one in the hands of a “Brahamins” (Govt. Doctors) and the other in “Untouchables” (Doctors of private institutions). When these two groups meet on daily routine work in Medical Establishments, they are not going to see eye to eye at each other and confrontational situations could develop resulting in a breakdown of the services. So an immediate solution has to be brought about by the Authorities involved without postponing it be entrusted to another “Committee” or a “Commission”. All facts are now known, the stakeholders have been identified and the Authorities involved are known. So why all cannot meet together and bring in an amicable and an acceptable solution? All must lay aside and forget each ones EGO and CONFRONTATIONAL ATTITUDES and strive to solve the problem.

    • 4
      1

      Douglas,

      this is not a big issue if the parties agree with a common assessment for both STATE and PVT students in their exams.

      Countries face difficult problems in changing their systems, but srilankens have been unable to march an inch not being able to have constructive discussions between the met parties.

      Here in srilanka, more of the culprits are the main problems. They the GMOA and some men in SLMC behave as if they know everything about medical standards.
      If UK, Germany and other countries can hold the kind of medical colleges protecting the qualitiy of the degree- why cant we the developing folks follow the same steps.

      What matters is the quality, it does not matter from what the medical degree is awarded.

      If you want to go to rome, no matter by which way you chose to arrive in there.. but you need to meet the time lines. Likewise, if assessment tests are held equal … what to stand against the introduction of such colleges
      Even English colleges will agree with srilanka to start there branches in the country – THAT can also bring more foreign currency… if also regional students would join the faculties. Since the standards in general in sl are recognized, this will work in a lucrative manner.

  • 0
    2

    The students in SAITM are those who got affected by the district quota system who were denied admission even after getting good results including A’s to those with 4 ordinary passes from so called ‘poor’ districts. It is just only fair to offer admission on purely merit basis. That is unfair to deny those with higher aggregate and better results to give their place to those with simple passes and low aggregate just for the excuse they are from poor district.

    If GMOA wants the private medical school to close down then the Government should abolish district quota system and reestablish merit only system as once how it was practiced. If the Government wants to retain district quota system then it is only fair to allow a fair option to those who got better results than those admitted under the dubious district quota system. with simple passes by allowing them study medicine privately.

    Due to the district quota system poor quality students have got admitted and these students cannot even speak properly. A 5th grade student in a good school can communicate better than them. These students have very poor knowledge. behave like a street vendor and are very crude.. They have brought the high standards the university once had to a very low level.

    Most students at SAITM are very bright who have obtained very good results much better than many in the state medical faculties. They possess good knowledge and skills and they can communicate and converse clearly, and stylishly.

    • 1
      0

      To some extent you may be right.

      Gone were the days, that state medical faculty products succeeded even in foreign countries.

      I KNOW BY MYSELF SOME LEFT FOR UK and RETURN HOME NOT BEING ABLE TO GET ON WITH English people, – main struggle was the langauge.

      Most of current day local MBBS holders are just book worms.
      They cant as you say, communicate well.

      Thanks to local experts not to have taken any timeworth measures on this

      Meeharaka Rajapakshe filled his pockets, and ignored almost everything during the last 10 year thuggish period.

      If he even started anyhting, it was just half baken.

  • 2
    0

    Sam Fernando: Thank you. One of my elders having read your comment contacted me and told me of a story that got spread when the Colombo, Sri Jayawardenepura and Kelaniya campuses were started. The two Universities that were named as “Sri Jayawardenapura and Kelaniya” were both “PIRIVENAS” and all the students who entered those two institutions were named as “Pirivena Graduates” of Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara respectively. On the other hand, Colombo University lectures were conducted in the Grand Stands of the former “Colombo Race Course” due to lack of facilities and the students were called “Race Course Graduates”. That was how the people stigmatized those students. But as time went on, that stigmatization vanished, because the Authorities at that time instituted those Universities in the proper manner in compliance with the prevailing Law. As far as this present day Institutions like SAITAM have not been constituted properly and not subjected to follow any stipulations by Legislative Enactments and that deficiency combined with all the public protests, make the students more vulnerable to face hardship and segregation and stigmatization in the working environment as well as in public. That is what has to be sorted out now.

    • 2
      0

      Douglas,
      Particular SAITM issue would not have turned out to be as such, had the state reacted going through all the preliminary steps that should have been settled before the students were encoruaged to get their admissions.
      I think among the students even with C levels grades, if the students could get through in the common entrace exam they should be given the chance for their degree course at a PVT medical college.That is how european unis maintains the standards. I know it by myself, there were students with much less qualifications, but they were able to score distinctions in the evaluation tests. They were all not the ones that got through Alevels with flying colours.
      As said above, these are no real issues to developed world, but to our countries. If the state at the time, formed SAITM, reacted fullfilling all the Quality and stadard related regulations, students would not have met with all anxities about the completion of the degree. It is no means fair either to treat youth of the country this way.
      As you mentioned above stigmatization makes everything worst in LANKEN society. Even so called MBBS holders that came into being thanks to lanken tax payers, change their attitudes after getting through their exams. We perfectly know how Rajapaskhe s close association made irreversible changes in Paddeniya . Rajapakshe was talent to turn black to white, there professionals should have remained in compliance with the guidelines. But lankens in general behave sadly not compliant with the basic requirments. Even if I live out of the country for decades, I am alert to lanken issues as a habit of mine from that day on. However, I find it difficult to get as to why the people disagrees with PVT medical colleges but agrees with various kind of other prvite colleges that help the students completing their degrees in Accountancy and Computer science and several other field by today.

    • 1
      0

      GMOA thrives on lies. A daily today, has published GMOA doctors walking to Vihara Maha Devi park, based on 3 lies they submitted, which have already been set before the court and the verdict given as “legal”. GMOA leaders should be charged with contempt of court, if not for the patience of the SAITM leadership. Bankrupt SLMC never had set standards for anything, only regulations for exams. for foreign, the locals being registered anyway, including NCMC and KDU. Why not SAITM? Like Pirivenas becoming uni., & Rajarata getting interned, why not SAITM be allowed internship until these new laws and acts streamline both state and private uni., whether fee or free. Then after one year, SLMC inspection teams must report on all medical schools, state and private. Shrieks must now become fading echoes. In UK to practice, one has to be accredited annually. Only we let occultists teach medical students.

  • 0
    1

    SLMC and GMOA examiners at ERPM (Act 16) are waiting to lay hold of SAITM doctors and fail them with a vengeance to prove they were right. ERPM is for foreign qualified. SAITM MBBS is conducted by the same external examiners as state uni. Court after examination of documents declared they should complete internship training. Entry, curriculum, exams. were all gone into in a 600 page petition, as against the false accusations of political trade unions. Weaknesses are being overcome unlike in the Rajarata lack of psychiatry cancelling subject for all state uni at Finals, so that all are ignorant of mental health. SL has short memory even with NCMC. Prof. Carlo’s frustration is that he could not win a second time against SAITM, swelling his brain. SAITM is here to stay with a judicial verdict to internship, and of SLMC violation of medical ordinance. Its only justice that gives the solution, not the screaming falsified voices of TU which will eventually have to fade. Majority of doctors brain washed by TU of their imagined future ruined by SAITM. False. They are ruining it themselves, these so called ‘brilliants’, not going for their own lectures. Suicidal Maniacs produced by TU. State will put out substandard doctors, striking through life while disciplined and caring SAITM doctors will have flocks of patients who know they are in good hands.

  • 1
    0

    Sam Fernando: Appreciate your comment. I too said the same as you explained. The creation of this problem rests with the Government and continuance too rests again with the Government. If this Institution was to undertake providing Medical Studies, all Authorities (UGC,Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education & SLMC) connected there with should have got together and put that Institution in order. The Government too failed in not making a “Policy Statement” on such a critical matter. On the other hand, the “Organizers” of this Institution steamrolled their intended target of “Profit Making” utilizing the “Political Patronage” they readily received from the Highest downwards for known and unknown reasons. Next, if the parents and the students questioned , (especially in the presence of a public announcement from SLMC asking not to register) there would not have been any students to commence operations. Of course, on their (parents) part they would have heavily relied on the widely expressed “Political Patronage” from the “Highest” and thought everything would sail smooth. It was how my closest relation enrolled his child with this Institution even though I gave these facts to consider before making his decision. So as at date there over 700 students, including my nephew and parents , who are engaged in a struggle to achieve their “Dreams”. That is why I blamed all the four parties who created this problem. Still with these types of experience, do you find Government has learned anything and handling the task of Governing in a meaningful and an orderly manner.?

    • 0
      0

      Major issue here is that students need education and cant have them dangling on strings till perfection comes. They have to get going. Here is an opening with fairly reliable people, approval on paper given,and people are willing to start a journey which promises success if pursued, but for the jealousy of a group. So the idea is to defeat that group and it has been done through verdict of courts. SAITM is legally authorized to internship completion. No turning back, no matter with or without profit, with or without govt. take over, with or without additional demands for clinical training, with or without cries for closure, and with or without all the dramas that’s going on street exhibitions. If profit annoys, it was necessary to start a huge venture, hospital and staff salaries etc. May change to Non profit status later on, or continue to build into a major complex on site. It is future. Currently, SAITM is producing non ragging, uni type, caring, excellent doctors. GMOA is struggling now to help SLMC put their dismantled and long desolated house into order again by demanding that Ministers of govt. release documents. This could have been done easily over the years in the proper process of negotiation and proper protocol, but now tail wagging dog, killing patients too. Failure.

    • 0
      0

      Douglas@
      had the previous govt done the job well going through all the quality issues before misleading the masses, nothing would have worked ending up all met with anxities. Not a single project though boased loudly as so called development programmes, has been seen as done going through due global standards. Actually, so called, men of GMOA could warn the PVT medical students adequately, though they have just opened their mouths by today. I think this an issue of indifference nature of our people. Very same former men shamelessly add their thoughts – I cant comphrehend this at all. I think those stupid men misguided counrty s youth – if any other insitutions would not recognize so far education of all 700 students of the PVT college, they have just spend their valauble times for nothing. I hope president will mediate in the issue and solving the problem sooner than later.

  • 1
    0

    SLMC has forgotten that their education was funded by the public and are now holding the public hostage. The govt should not give into blackmail.

    I thought healthcare was a essential service: so how are these AH’s striking.

    I do understand its going to be difficult but the govt should fire all doctors that go on strike and impound their passport. They do have the right to leave the country after they fully reimburse the govt the public funds spent for their education.

    Govt should create one final exam that all doctors have to sit before licensing irrespective whether they got their education through Govt. private or foreign university.

    SLMC thinks they are qualified but every person with money is travelling to Singapore, India, USA and UK for treatment.

  • 0
    0

    Burt

    “every person with money is travelling to Singapore, India, USA and UK for treatment.”

    You said it correctly including the Minister of Health Rajitha Senaratne did not believe and trust the local cardiologists but went to Singapore for his treatment!

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