JVP enquires into proposed sale of SAITM’s Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital

Friday, 23 March 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Skandha Gunasekara

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in Parliament yesterday proposed that Dr. Neville Fernando, in his capacity as the Chairman of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), be summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) regarding advertisements in print media to sell the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital (NFTH), which was taken over by the Government last year.

JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, referring to the fact that numerous newspaper advertisements were published several weeks ago, demanded to know how a Government-run hospital could be sold through newspaper advertisements.

Dr. Jayatissa made these remarks while taking part in yesterday’s debate on the regulations of the National Medicines Regulatory Act.

On Tuesday (20), Dr. Jayatissa raised the same issue as a supplementary question during the Oral Questions session. At the time, however, State Minister of Higher Education Mohan Lal Grero refused to answer the question on the grounds that the supplementary question was not relevant to the original oral question in the Order Paper.

“Last year it was reported that the NFTH was handed over to the Government. There was a celebration in which both the President and the Health Minister participated. The media reported that there was an agreement between the NFTH management and the Government. Those parties even claimed that they aim to make the NFTH the best hospital in Asia. But now newspaper advertisements have been published stating that the hospital is up for immediate sale. How is this possible?”

In addition, Dr. Jayatissa revealed that the Health Ministry had rejected a Right to Information request for the agreement between the Government and the NFTH by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMAO), stating that there was no agreement but rather a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

“Since its acquisition, the Government has paid around Rs. 300 million a month to the NFTH to continue its operations. When there is a situation like that how can advertisements be published out of nowhere? When I raised this question, none of the MPs in the Government bothered to reply. I hope that they will be able to give a proper response as soon as possible.” He then went on to suggest that SAITM Chairman Dr. Fernando be summoned by COPA to offer a clarification over the newspaper advertisements.