Written by Lahiru Fernando
29 Oct, 2017 | 10:39 pm
The people living in and daily traveling in and out of Colombo are well familiar to protests by University students and doctors of Government Medical Officers Association.
There was a time where running into unusually heavy traffic caused by a protest against SAITM was just a normal day in Colombo.
The university students also broke into the Ministry of Health -damaging public properties of the Ministry.
Medical students of state universities threw away precious, irreversible time by not attending lectures for over eight months. Whose future did they put in jeopardy? -only they can answer that question.
That was a daily struggle for the city folk of Colombo. But it was not just the city dwellers who had problems due to SAITM. The innocent, poor Sri Lankans living in rural areas too, had a daily struggle.
What happened to them? – they were cut off from the only source of medical attention they so desperately needed – all thanks to the GMOA who decided to strike heartlessly citing demands, some against SAITM, some…. personal. Like asking for vehicle permits and then ‘big, popular schools’ for their kids.
At the height of all these problems, President appointed a committee to look into all angles of the issue and to provide a solution that will be fair to all stakeholders.
Today, October 29, 2017 – a document carrying the Presidential Committee proposals was released to the media.
While the country is divided as Pro-SAITM and Anti-SAITM, it would be good news in general for all that those protests will be no more.
As per the recommendations of the Presidential Committee, the Medical Faculty at SAITM is to be abolished in a manner legally acceptable to the current shareholders and lending institutions.
All operations and management of the faculty will be entrusted to a new entity interested in taking over on a not-for-profit basis, thus ending the ownership and management structure of the institution.
According to the statement, the profit oriented entity owned and managed by Dr. Neville Fernando and family would thereby cease to exist.
Based on an agreement reached by the above parties, the assets, liabilities, staff and students of SAITM, shall be transferred to a non-state, non-profit making, degree awarding entity that will comply with the Minimum Standards on Medical Education and Training, which are yet to be legislated.
The government has consulted several already established non-state, non-profit entities with the objective of establishing the proposed non-profit entity.
Detailed discussions with interested parties are to start soon.
Students who possess the required entry qualifications currently enrolled at the SAITM Medical Faculty are to continue medical education in the proposed new institution.
Furthermore, issues in respect of former students who have completed their degree course at SAITM should be addressed on the advise of Sri Lanka Medical Council, based on the determination of the Supreme Court case filed on the same.
Arrangements are to be made for students who have completed their degree to undergo clinical training at recommended government hospitals.
The suspension on admitting ‘Medical Students’ to SAITM will continue, as per a letter issued by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education on September 15, 2017.
Hence, all new admissions shall be made to the new entity, when only complying with the yet to be legislated Minimum Standards on Medical Education and Training.
The statement also notes that the government shall cooperate on all endeavors to make available through financial institutions, subsidized student loan schemes to eligible students from low income families.
Current shareholders of SAITM shall not participate in the ownership or management of the new entity.
The cooperation of Dr. Neville Fernando and family is extremely important in this regard, said the statement.
The committee also recommends that the Ministry of Health shall gazette and place before parliament the agreed Minimum Standards for Medical Education and Training based on the draft submitted by the Sri Lanka Medical Council upon conclusion of discussions with the SLMC, the Attorney General and other stakeholders.
This task is to be completed within one month from today (October 29).
The committee has also recommended a chronology for implementing these solutions;
The Presidential Committee recommends the immediate appointment of a committee of high level officials to coordinate the implementation of the above measures with the entire process to be completed by December 31, 2017.
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