SAITM parents hope for favourable decision from court

Monday, 11 July 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

hamper-Nevile-Perera-2Prof. Nevil Perera, addressing to the media during a Press Conference organised by the Private Medical College Parents Society on Thursday 7  July 2016 at City Hotel Colombo. Prof. A.U.B Pethiyagoda, Prof. Shirani Ranasinghe, Dr. M  Wasantha Perera, T M K B Tennekoon, Attorney at Law Anura Dhanaratana, Attorney at Law, Vimal Samarakoon and Prof. Prasanth Amarathunga were also present. Pic by Gitika Talukdar 

By Himal Kotelawala

At a heated press conference held last week, a newly-formed Private Medical College Parents’ Society (PMCPS) defended the controversial South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), claiming that their children’s futures had been put in jeopardy due to what the association called the personal vendettas of a misguided few. 

A court case that is expected to decide the career prospects of the first batch of students to pass out from the private medical school is now pending. If the result is favourable to SAITM, this will force the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) to allow the students to intern at state hospitals.

This is in marked contrast to what SLMC President Prof. Carlo Fonseka is reported to have said in a State-run newspaper, where he claimed that he would defy any court order granting SAITM students recognition as doctors.

In a quick conversation with Daily FT on the sidelines of this event, Professor of Surgery at SAITM Prof. Neville D. Perera, who also represented the PMCPS, said they were awaiting a favourable decision by the courts. A case has been filed against “people refusing to give [SAITM students] registration,” he said. 

“The poor students must not be penalised for these personal vendettas,” he added.

Out of the 24 SAITM students that sat for the exam, 19 were able to get through. According to Prof. Perera, they went through a gruelling examination process overseen by professors from Peradeniya, Galle and Colombo universities. 

“They can’t be biased. They accepted our invitation and came forward bravely,” said Prof. Perera.

When asked if there was no truth to the claim that the curriculum at SAITM was substandard, Prof. Perera said that it was a baseless allegation and that the school took in students who had even got two A passes and a B in their GCE Advanced Level exams.

“This is a baseless allegation that they use as a weapon against this institute. If you take the training of SAITM, it’s on par with any other university in Sri Lanka. One of the medical council professors who came for an inspection has given in writing that this medical curriculum and training is better than some of the contemporary university medical faculties,” he said.

“I’m a teacher there and I have taught government medical students for the last 24 years. I can be 100% sure that these students undergoing this curriculum will be good and clever doctors,” he added.

There was a fear among junior doctors from state medical schools that students from private medical schools are going to compete with them for jobs in the private sector, said Prof. Perera.

“However, many doctors may come out from private medical schools, there won’t be any replacements. They will be complimentary,” he said.

Prof. Perera are also claimed that the SLMC, while imposing restrictions on a homegrown private medical school, have given the okay to up to 200 international medical schools, some of which are not up to scratch in terms of quality. Some, the Parents’ Society claimed, no longer even exist.

“When all the [foreign educated doctors] come back to Sri Lanka, they have to sit for an exam.  That is by law only for the foreign students, and not applicable to local students,” said Prof. Perera.

He also charged that in the case of SAITM, despite repeated requests over five years, the SLMC came forward at the last minute, highlighting shortcomings with the school’s clinical studies.

“What is not highlighted in their final report is that they have appreciated all the other sections: such as preclinicals, paraclinicals and all the other parts of the curriculum. The teachers too have been highly appreciated,” he said.

“Their only criticism is the number of patients. We’re trying to compensate for that. By law the Government should help us. They’re helping KDU and all other universities,” complained Prof. Perera.

“The Government should extend a helping hand - it has so many resources - rather than going on criticising and saying that there aren’t enough patients,” he added.