Professor Hiran Amarasekera of the Sri Jayewardenepura University says, "The government should do justice to the students who have enrolled in SAITM because the former government allowed the establishment of SAITM."
By Rasika Hemamali
Following are excerpts:
?: Even though no one opposes private universities, there is a lot of opposition to private medical colleges. Why is that?
A: Other universities grant only a degree. Finding a job based on that degree is a responsibility of those graduates. However, when it comes to medical students, they receive a job in the government sector. This is the big problem here. Employers who recruit graduates consider the quality of the degree. When a doctor is recruited as a government medical officer, the Sri Lanka Medical Council inquires into the quality of that degree. Patients are a group of people without a voice. They do not know why they go to a hospital and for what disease. The science of diagnosing a disease is very complex. One should become a doctor and be trained according to the criteria set by the Medical Council. The problem here is not obtaining a degree. SAITM has already granted the degree. So tell them to go to any place as a doctor. They cannot do so and that is because they do not have the approval of the Sri Lanka Medical Council.
?: Several batches have already obtained degrees from SAITM. Shouldn't there be justice for them?
A: The criteria required to become a doctor in Sri Lanka, from the beginning, is stated on the website of the Sri Lanka Medical Council. This information includes the minimum qualifications needed, the universities in the world approved by the SLMC. Last year, a certain university in Bangladesh lost the approval of the Medical Council. Details were provided about SAITM from the initial stages and newspaper statements were published to raise awareness among the people. Despite this students entered SAITM.
?: However, now there should be justice for the students who are already there?
A: The government should do justice to the students who have entered SAITM. It was due to certain actions of the government that this was established.
?: Aren't the parents of SAITM students also helpless due to this?
A: It is bus a bus owner who is shouting about SAITM. That is also a great tragedy. Neither SAITM students nor their parents come forward. I know some of the parents. They do not want to come into the limelight. Some believes that if you display some bravado in the manner of a ruffian in front of the media, something can be won over in Sri Lanka. See what happened to the private bus service. See whether a private bus travels to a village after six in the evening. When they were asked not to violate road rules, they engaged in a strike asking to be allowed to travel on the road while breaking all laws.
It is possible for any child to have dreams. But, ask them to consider this from their point of view. Is the education they are receiving good? Consider whether they receive a proper education? They did not take it into consideration. At least now they should look into it. Act properly without behaving like ruffians. Practical training regarding a disease has to be done properly. A proper number of patients should be examined in order to receive training.
At present this degree is said to cost Rs 12 million. Not one doctor has been produced yet but they charge Rs 12 million. If doctors are produced do not know how much it will become. There is no place at all for innocent poor people in Sri Lanka.
?: Are you saying that SAITM does not give proper training?
A: That institution acted in a fraudulent manner from the very beginning. That is why this problem occurred. If they had maintained specified educational criteria then there would have been no problem. There are children in our universities today as well. If the degree is given today they are prepared to take it and go. The medical field in Sri Lanka is not only about treatment of patients. Today even when human rights indices and education indices decline medical indices remain at a very high level. The medical indices achieved by our country at a very low cost are quite high. This is a country where the infant mortality rate is the lowest in the region. It is a country where epidemics have been eradicated. Polio was eradicated in this country before India. All of this was possible because of the quality medical education in Sri Lanka and the dedication of qualified doctors. We cannot let such a country go to decay because of one institution.
Even the government has to have a positive outlook on this. This is one opportunity to protect the quality of education and the health service in the country. If this continues like this, the health indices will be finished. It will be the end of the education indices also.
?: The North Colombo Medical College or the Ragama Medical College was nationalized. Can the same be done with this institution?
A: The North Colombo Medical Faculty was quite different. Then, Professor Carlo Fonseka said the quality of students at the North Colombo Medical Faculty was good. The SLMC is an independent institution under the presidency of Professor Carlo Fonseka. I don't know whether they are aware that the situation at SAITM is really bad. They are not persons who are opposed to private education or private medical education. The problem is about how SAITM acts and its quality. The Medical Council says that SAITM should be transformed into a quality institution.
?: But, although there is opposition against SAITM no one is against the Kotelawala Medical Faculty?
A: The Kotelawala Medical Faculty is a place where military doctors are produced. It has the approval of the Medical Council. It is not an institution like SAITM, which is engaged in cheating. There is a good staff there and clinical training is given from the initial stages. There are patients in Army hospitals. Students of the Kotelawala Medical Faculty are not sent to the General Hospital for clinical training. The other thing is that students are not recruited to the Kotelawala Faculty simply. They are admitted based on Z-score.
?: If the Neville Fernando Hospital does not have adequate facilities or patients for clinical training, is it not possible to use government hospitals?
A: A patient has rights. When a student goes and tries to handle a patient in a serious condition, that patient's rights are violated.
This opportunity has been granted to medical students because of free education and free health. If so, they can then go and use patients at private hospitals. Such opportunities are not granted. If the students want to examine a patient they would have to pay the patient something. There is a big problem similar to that in every country.
?: However, it is possible to practice medicine after obtaining a medical degree from a foreign country, is it not?
A: If the student obtains the degree from a foreign university approved by the SLMC, then they can become a doctor here. When they return they have to sit the Act 16 examination and pass that. Now it is known as EPMRM. It is not easy to get through that.
Only a very few become successful.
?: Many doctors produced by State universities do not remain in the country. As a result, we do not have a sufficient number of doctors. Aren't private medical colleges a solution for this problem?
A: Even though doctors produced by State Medical Colleges are recognized by foreign countries, SAITM students will not be accepted by any country. They do not have proper training. The solution for the shortage of medical officers is to produce doctors of proper quality.
?: Establishing private medical colleges here is a way to prevent local money from flowing out to foreign countries, isn't it?
A: Everything else is imported aren't they?Now rice is also being brought from overseas. Money is not a problem. What should be done is that quality should be protected.
?: Students with good results are deprived of entering medical colleges because of the district quota system. Isn't this a solution for that problem too?
A: The government should provide remedies for that. Every child should be given an opportunity to study. It should be done under proper standards.
Original Article: http://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20170101CT20170331.php?id=15918