SAITM’s Fake Medical Degrees
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Private Medical College (PMC) in Malabe – the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine’s (SAITM) failure to provide clinical training for its students have not only irked the parents/ students but it is also criminally liable for deceiving parents.
Established in 2009, SAITM through newspaper advertisements called for applications from prospective students to obtain a foreign medical degree promising a MD (Russia) after successful completion.
Although they stated that SAITM is the off shore Campus of Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy (NNSMA) of the Russian Federation, the Medical Ordinance does not permit the existence of offshore campuses for foreign medical schools for the purpose of conferring a foreign medical degree in Sri Lanka.
However, Director SAITM Dr. Sameera Senaratne refers to SAITM as the Sri Lanka campus of NNSMA where students have been given the opportunity to obtain a prestigious medical degree in Sri Lanka from a reputed Russian state university confirming the foreign degree after successfully completing the first four years in Sri Lanka and the fifth year at NNSMA Russia.
SAITM, meanwhile, promised clinical training in government hospitals although no clinical training in government hospitals has been permitted so far.
It is also learnt that the University Grants Commission (UGC)’s decision to give its recognition only to the fifth batch onwards was to ensure that these students have the necessary qualifications to follow the medical course.
“We have found out that this institution has enrolled students who do not have enough qualifications to follow a medical course. That is why the UGC imposed certain guidelines for SAITM. From the fifth batch SAITM has to enroll only students who have the necessary qualifications,” the UGC confirmed to The Sunday Leader.
Speaking on condition of anonymity a leading medical doctor, who too enrolled his son at SAITM, has taken his son out from SAITM. He told The Sunday Leader that he did not want his son to continue at SAITM, which is not recognized by the SLMC (Sri Lanka Medical College).
When asked as to why he failed to check whether this university is recognised by the SLMC and UGC before his son was enrolled, he said that he was not aware that the SLMC does not recognise twin programmes.
“There are many countries that award degrees where the students study in more than two countries. It was too late when I understood that the SLMC would not give its recognition for twin programme courses and that was why I immediately sent my son to a foreign university without wasting more time at SAITM,” he added.
However, he complimented SAITM for giving his son a good education during the first year.
“My son studied for one year and three months at SAITM and received a good education during the first year. Although he once again had to start from the beginning at his present university, he was told that he will be promoted to the second year, since he has scored more than 80 marks for each paper and the gap between the first and second is more than 40 percent. This was because of the good lectures at SAITM,” he said.
He also said that he is not against Private Medical Colleges in the country but added that these medical faculties should get all the required facilities before enrolling students.
He further said that it was not professional for this PMC to deceive parents and students by promising clinical training in government hospitals.
“In the paper advertisements they clearly said that they have SLMC recognition and the students would receive clinical training in government hospitals. They have put the innocent students in jeopardy,” he added.
The doctor father also said that he has written to SAITM asking them to refund his money which he paid in advance. He says he will initiate legal action if his money is not refunded. “Although my son studied for three to four months in his second year, I have paid the second year course fee in advance. I sent a letter to SAITM two weeks ago requesting them to refund the money. I will give them a few more weeks and if they fail to refund the money I will initiate legal action,” he said.
Meanwhile, yet another parent whose child is still studying at SAITM told The Sunday Leader on the basis of anonymity that they have been told that any questions with regard to administration issues are not relevant for the parents.
According to him, the UGC’s decision to recognise the new entrants was to ensure that these students have the necessary qualification to follow the medical course.
“Whenever we raise questions with regard to SLMC and UGC recognition which have caused us pain of mind, there are many instances when Dr. Senaratne has shouted at us. He says that it is not relevant for us but to leave it for the administrators. How can he claim that these are not relevant to parents? It is the parents who have given them money so we have a right to find out what is happening,” he said.
“By this time four students from the third batch have already left SAITM after realising that they have been misled. When we raise these questions, Dr. Senaratne (who too has studied in Russia but has not sat for Act 16 conducted by the SLMC to be recognised as a doctor in Sri Lanka), says SAITM has the Russian degree awarding status. But he has never shown the relevant documents,” he alleged.
He further stated that Director National Accreditation Agency of Russia in an email dated September 22, 2011 has notified Minister of Higher Education that the medical programme conducted at Malabe is not accredited to Russia.
“Although the SLMC has recognised the degree awarded by NNSMA for the course conducted in Russia for a six year period, they will not recognise any other twin programme conducted by the NNSMA. Therefore SAITM cannot exist as the offshore campus of NNSMA Russia,” he added.
He further said that most of the lecturers who are foreign qualified doctors have either failed the Act 16 examination or have not sat for it.
“It was the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) that first revealed this. Can these doctors who do not have sufficient knowledge to pass the Act 16 exam even after several attempts, guide our children to get through the exams? Why couldn’t SAITM employ highly qualified doctors to lecture our children?” he asked.
According to many parents, SAITM has dishonestly and fraudulently obtained millions of rupees from them making false representations.
“A criminal complaint ought to be lodged with the relevant authorities,” they said.
Meanwhile, Director SAITM, Dr. Sameera Senaratne told The Sunday Leader that SAITM is having discussions with the SLMC.
“We will get the SLMC registration very soon,” he said.
When asked as to what would happen to the students in the first four batches as they will not be recognised by the UGC, Dr. Senaratne said that there are no provisions for the UGC to exclude the first four batches.
“We have always followed UGC criteria when enrolling students,” he said.
However, Dr. Senaratne failed to give a proper answer as to when SAITM would provide clinical training for its students.
“We have spoken to many private hospitals including Nawaloka Hospitals. Very soon our request will be granted,” said Dr. Senaratne.
Director/ General Manager Nawaloka Hospitals Prof. Lal Chandrasena, when asked whether his hospital would provide clinical training to SAITM students, replied that it is not a Teaching Hospital.
“Clinical training should be given in Teaching Hospitals. Nawaloka Hospital is not a teaching hospital nor has SAITM contacted us. We cannot give clinical training for SAITM students,” Prof. Chandasena told The Sunday Leader.