- Threatens to take strong trade union action if Minister fails to meet their demands
- GMOA to appeal to the highest level of authority during the week
- Claims they will not allow Sri Lanka to become the only country producing medics without the approval of country’s medical council
The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday threatened to take “strong trade union action” if the Health Minister did not implement the recommendations given in a Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) report on the controversial private medical school within one week.
Accusing Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne of following a “SAITM (South Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine) bias agenda,” GMOA Assistant Secretary Navin de Soysa said that the Minister intentionally avoided taking action as recommended by an SLMC expert team and accused him of foul play by not presenting the Court with a copy of the report. Earlier this week the Appeal Court delivered a landmark ruling against the SLMC for its refusal to register medical graduates from the country’s only privately-run medical school, directing the professional body to grant provisional registration to all qualifying students. The GMOA, along with a number of other organisations including the Inter-University Students’ Union (IUSF), has been protesting against SAITM from its inception. The GMOA has on several occasions resorted to trade union action to prevent the students from the school from undergoing clinical training at State hospitals. The GMOA also plans to appeal to President Maithripala Sirisena and other high-ranking Government officials to take action on the matter to “protect the rights of patients and ensure their safety which has come under jeopardy under present circumstances”.
De Soysa also said that they had sought legal advice to decide on the future course of action to be taken by the association. The GMOA claimed that the union would not allow Sri Lanka to become the only country which produced doctors without the course being approved by the country’s medical council. The GMOA is also in discussion with other trade unions and 16 unions have pledged to show their solidarity with planned trade union action, De Soysa said.
The GMOA also held discussions with the SLMC last morning to communicate their stance and discuss the issue. The SLMC is yet to issue any official statement on the issue. A source close to the SLMC said that an emergency council meeting had been summoned for next week to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, the protest against SAITM staged by students from State-run medical faculties was dispersed using tear gas and water cannon. At least 10 students were also arrested following the protest.
SLFP highlights the need for quality assurance in Higher Education
By Himal Kotalawala
The SLFP yesterday called for a quality assurance mechanism for graduates of the controversial South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).
Commenting on this week’s decision by the Court of Appeal directing the Sri Lanka Medical Council to grant provisional registration to SAITM graduates, the party said that the Government respects the decision by the court but expressed the need for a quality assurance mechanism. Deputy Minister of Higher Education Sudarshini Fernandopulle, a medical practitioner herself, made these remarks at the weekly press briefing held at the party head quarters.
“We have to bow down to the decision of the courts. My position has always been that it’s Sri Lankan children studying at SAITM. Given that there is limited space in the country’s state university system, there’s not enough room for everyone to study medicine,” she said, adding that even though there were questions about the nature of its establishment, the institute was founded with the objective of providing students who get left behind a chance to study medicine.
However, she said, it’s important to maintain quality standards. “When it comes to law degrees, you can study wherever, but to practice you need to sit for the Law College exam. Medical students who study abroad have to sit for the Act 16 exam,” she said. There ought to be a similar mechanism to verify the quality for SAITM graduates also, she added.
GMOA on token strike today
The GMOA last night decided to engage in a token strike from 8.00 a.m. to 12 noon today in protest of the arrest of a group of medical students who demonstrated in Fort. The GMOA move comes despite Fort Magistrate late yesterday granting bail to the 21 medical students who were arrested during the protest in Fort