The Sunday Leader

‘SAITM Graduates Unqualified To Treat The Sick’

by Nirmala Kannangara

SAITM building

President, Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), Prof. Carlo Fonseka is adamant that Medical Council registration would not be given to students who have passed out from the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM). Prof. Fonseka who is a reputed medical specialist said that he does not want to give SLMC recognition to those who have not followed proper clinical training and thus put the patient’s life at risk.

Sri Lanka Medical Council is the body that regulates the professional standards of doctors and maintains standards of medical education in the country. In such a backdrop, Prof. Fonseka says he fails to see why the courts together with the Health Ministry and the University Grants Commission want to grant SLMC recognition to a group of students who are supposed to have obtained the ‘MBBS’ qualification from an institution that has failed to provide quality education and clinical training to its students.

“Those who have vested interests could get me removed from the post of President SLMC and get their intentions worked out. But as a medical specialist who has always worked for the betterment of the patients, I do not want untrained ‘doctors’ to take care of the sick,” Prof. Fonseka said.

According to Prof. Fonseka, the SLMC appointed a high-powered, ten member team of medical doctors to visit SAITM and give a report to the Medical Council about the institution and how students are trained.

“The report stated that the students have not received proper and adequate clinical training. Clinical training is the vital part in medical science. SAITM provided clinical training at Neville Fernando Hospital which does not have sufficient patients to give students the proper clinical training that a medical student requires. Clinical trainingis not gained through books but through experience,” Prof. Fonseka said.

As a result of inadequate clinical training, the ten-member medical team in their report states that the medical students are not competitive enough to look after the sick. “I as the President of SLMC, will not give our registration to these students for the safety of the patients. May be these students are hard-working but we cannot take chances,” Prof. Fonseka added.

According to Prof. Fonseka, the SLMC had given two weeks notice to SAITM about its plan to send a team of doctors to inspect the facilities provided to students to undergo a proper training course but added that he was dismayed at how SAITM still failed to comply with the requirements the SLMC had sought.

“They undertook this assignment on July 13, 14 and 15 2015 and submitted the report later. Under Section 19 of the Medical Ordinance, we took the decision not to give these students the SLMC registration,” Prof. Fonseka said.

The medical team comprised Prof. RezviSherif (Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo), Prof. Nilanthi de Silva (Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Kelaniya), Prof. Vasantha Gunathunge (Professor of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo), Prof. K. Sivapalan (Professor in Psychology, Faculty of Medicine Jaffna), Prof. RanjaniGamage (Neurologist), Prof. Ranil Fernando (Surgeon, Medical Faculty, Kelaniya),  Dr. D.J.C. Perera (Child Specialist), Dr. HemanthaPerera (Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialist), Dr. Alwis (Rtd. Judicial Medical Officer) and Dr. H.M.S.S. B. Herath (Expert in Community Medicine).

Prof. Fonseka further said that it is controversial as most of the examiners that evaluated the final MBBS examination were carried out by either the parents of the last batch or parents of different batches at SAITM and well-wishers.

“Of the 24 students that sat for the final MBBS examination, 19 had got through. When SAITM sent their pass list to SLMC seeking their registration, the Medical Council replied claiming that these students cannot be registered due to the reasons given by the team of doctors who went on an inspectional tour last year. SAITM then sent a letter of demand to the Council Registrar. We are not scared of litigation as we cannot put the sick in trouble by allowing untrained doctors to take care of them,” Prof. Fonseka said.From its very inception, SAITM duped students and parents claiming that the degree is recognised by SLMC and in UK, that students will be given clinical training in government hospitals, that SLMC recognition will be given to the ERPM examination, that SLMC will monitor the courses for compliance with the standard according to the law on recognition, that it is affiliated to Nizhny Novgorod State Academy of Medicine, Russian Federation, professors from state medical faculties and that the degree is recognised in any part of the world.

“The degree is neither recognised by the UK nor the SLMC, the students are not allowed to sit for the ERPM examination, the degree offered was not monitored by the SLMC for compliance with the standard according to the law on recognition and the Russian government had not given registration to SAITM to grant the medical qualification of Doctor of Medicine (MD) of the Nizhny Novgorod State Academy of Medicine in Russia (NNSAM) or transfer the students of SAITM to the NNSAM in Russia,” a member of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the GMOA has raised concern as to why parents of future doctors still prefer to enroll their children in an institution that has misinterpreted information and deceived parents, the Board of Investment (BOI) and the Health Ministry from its inception.
“The report that was presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on March 22, 2012 by the five-member committee comprising former Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Ravindra Ruberu, former Deputy Director General Education, Training and Research Health Ministry Dr H. R. U. Indrasiri, Prof. Jayantha Jayawardena, Director, Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, Dr PalithaAbeykoon, former Director, World Health Organisation and Ms A. R. Ahamed, Legal Officer Health Ministry, clearly states how SAITM has distorted information in order to obtain the BOI approval.”

According  to the report the application submitted to the BOI by Chairman SAITM Dr Neville Fernando on March 17, 2008 seeking approval, the BOI had granted approval on March 31, 2008 subject to certain conditions.
“Although conditions number five and nine of the BOI letter was that the enterprise should obtain approval from the Ministry of Health (MOH) prior to providing training in health science and SAITM is permitted to offer degrees only after affiliating to a recognised foreign university, neither of these two conditions have been complied with before commencing the course,” claimed the GMOA.
The report further states that although Dr. Neville Fernando in a letter dated May 21, 2008 to the BOI informing that he has made representations to the Health Minister, SLMC, and University Grants Commission (UGC), only the letters written by Dr. Neville Fernando was attached but not the responses of the MOH, UGC and SLMC.
Although SAITM signed the agreement with BOI on October 1, 2008 the five member committee observes that two batches have been admitted by then without obtaining approval from the MOH and the SLMC.
The committee report observations meanwhile state that even after the newspaper announcement of Health Ministry Secretary advising SAITM to suspend the enrolment of new students to the MBBS degree until the MOH resolve the issues, SAITM still has placed a public advertisement to enroll students for the next batch.
It also states that in the absence of an effective date in the gazette notification on August 30, 2011 granting the degree awarding status to SAITM, it is to be treated that the Higher Education Ministry had offered the degree awarding status prospectively.

“The report further states that SAITM has acknowledged that they had admitted two students who did not meet the current SLMC admission criteria and SAITM have ensured that this would not be repeated. However we have details that not only two, there are more than who have not met the SLMC admission criteria. Even the UGC  have informed the five-member committee that it is not possible to accommodate the four batches recruited before the gazette notification and also does not have any provision legally to approve any offshore campus of Nishny Novogorod State Medical Academy (NNSMA) in Sri Lanka. If so what will happen to the students of these four batches who cannot sit for the ERPM and what does SAITM have to say about it? Knowing all these it is surprising as to how parents keep on enrolling their children to a fake university,” claimed the GMOA.

Though SAITM has repeatedly stated over the years that they have obtained Health Ministry approval to construct their Teaching Hospital at Malabe, according to Dr.KanthiAriyaratne, Director, Private Health Sector Division, Ministry of Health, SAITM has neither received Health Ministry approval for the Teaching Hospital nor have forwarded a project proposal to the Ministry. According to Dr. Ariyaratne, the approval SAITM is talking about is the clearance they have got from the Provincial Health Director Dr.Harsha de Silva but not from the Health Ministry.

18 Comments for “‘SAITM Graduates Unqualified To Treat The Sick’”

  1. Ricky

    Prof.Carlo Fonseka, pls enlighten us tax payers who have paid for the free education of most of those who enter govt. universities and medical faculty, why do you hamper the opportunity of someone who could not enter the medical faculty for reason of either not meeting the pass mark or limited entry nos of studying medicine in a private institution? After all, all those who are protesting are those who got their qualifying grades due to the lower grading (pass mark) afforded to the outstation students under the present marking system. On a level playing field I’m sure more Colombo students would be entering the medical faculty and those from the sticks becoming doctors would be few. As I see it in typical Sri Lanka fashion there is a resentment by those have-nots of the rich and affluent becoming doctors paying for their private education. What is the difficulty of providing the necessary clinical training for those in private medical colleges in govt and private hospitals? Those who can afford cannot be stopped from becoming doctors, they would spend their money to go overseas and qualify if they cannot do this in their home country. So, professor it is very silly of you to back the hypocrites of free education to try and stop the future of a person because he/she has not been able to enter the govt medical faculty.

  2. sarj

    Carlo did the same to NCMC but all qualified now are eminent consultants Carlo is same old arrogant Marxist carrying out JVP agenda depriving education system of Sri Lanka high time for him to retire and hand over the post a young dynamic individual. education for money or free is a human right in a country that around 10,000 doctors are short more and more PMC’ should be established.

  3. roshan

    you are a big brain swollen empty can

  4. gamarala

    Neville Fernando has sacrificed the future of these students for his personal gain, giving them false promises and information.
    Parents too are to blame.

  5. Gunapala Fonseka

    There are lot of Sri Lankan students who have graduate from Tnajin International Medical School in China have obtained registration in Sri Lanka. Tanjin does not have a teaching Hospital. It has a simulation hospital where clinical training is given on manikins. Why double standards ?.

    • Nishantha

      I believe you are referring the Tianjin University. Its one of the largest Medical Collages in China and it does have teaching hospitals. According to my knowledge so far SLMC has not recognized any low quality foreign Medical Collage.

      • Gunapala Fonseka

        There are two Tianjin Medical Schools. Tianjin State medical School and the Tianjin International medical School. It is true that the Tianjin State medical School is one of the largest in China.but Tianjin International Medical School has been set up recently to teach international students. As far as I am aware it does not have a teaching hospital. It is confirmed by ther own web site. They are two different institutes.

        • Gunapala Fonseka

          Sl students go to Tianjin Internation 5 year program . Tianjin State medical School does not enroll foreign students except by Nomination by another Government.

        • Manisha

          I work for the SLMC and validate medical degrees of students educated abroad. I can assure you, I do not care if there is a teaching hospital or not for the Chinese university or any foreign university for that matter. I also do not care what their standards are. They can do the act 16 and then practice in srilanka. I only do not want a Srilankan university with a teaching hospital and good standards to produce doctors here, simple because we want to control the number of people who join the doctor profession in srilanka. Thankyou sir

  6. Athula Withanage

    No doctor just out of medical college is allowed to treat patients on their own without supervision. Taught by the same teachers who educated others, they were deprived of clinical training purely due to political reasons. It best to give them two years internship just like in UK as foundation year 1 and 2.

  7. srs

    No need of a reason. SLMC registration must be obtained before establishing clinical works. But still they dont have SLMC recognition but I can see a lot of advertisement by SAITM claiming that they have SLMC approval. Non of the media has guts to question this. shame on these paid media


      • ashoka

        It is so funny to hear that the clinical training is inadequate and therefore he is not giving the SAITM students registration. He does not suggest any plan to rectify this inadequacy. Did the medical council test the clinical knowledge of these students?. His ten members committee report was released before these students were given clinical training in government hospital. What was the answer of this committee and what did they suggest to rectify the inadequacy??
        It is not enough to say just ‘no’ but give your suggestions and clear grounds.

  9. ashoka

    Not any medical graduate is suitable to treat patients when they are passed out from the University until they complete their internship. It is not only applicable to SAITM it is applicable worldwide. Nobody treats patients independently before they complete their internship under supervision.

    Prof Carlo is adamant and arrogant to say he is not ready to register these doctors because they are not well trained. At the same time the SLMC and GMOA claim that the SLMC is the regulatory body of medical training and Carlo is the head.

    SAITM was in the country throughout these seven years and had government approvals and court decisions in favour of it during this period. It is the duty of the SLMC to regulate this body and direct its training in the correct direction. Now the first batch of the graduates are out. Still the SLMC could not regulate its training and that is why the head is against their registration. He is not even happy about the examiners.Did you object the examination panel before the exam?


    We know it put some adds in papers. THEY FAILD TO REGULATE THIS BODY!!!!. Now the first batch is out and say no registration. It is like traffic police hiding in a bush until a driver commit traffic offence and then jump out and fine!!!. Is this the duty of SLMC Proff.???

    You and your SLMC is utter failure !!!. You failed to perform your duty and now you try to become a hero and defy orders of courts. I think you let down the SLMC, and worth resigning.

    • marusira

      Dear Professor, if the SAITM students are unqualified to treat the sick we can not believe these students of the government universities who are in the streets most of the days are qualified to treat the sick either!!. How do you guarantee about it. do you think they have time to study?

      • Bellekkade Choppe

        Carlo Aiya, if you are really concerned about patient safety why do not you put your thugary to the GMOA when they do unfair strikes to kill patients??? Are you scared of them ? or are they worst thugs than you ?

        Please do not put your thugary only to these innocent SAITM graduates who are helpless’.’ Paw veda Aiya’

        We, being thugs always help sick people by putting them in to three wheelers and sending them to hospitals. There are very good government doctors who look after them. Please do something really good for the patients being a big thug in the medical field Aiya.

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