Malshani Suriyarachchi, who graduated last June from SAITM with an MBBS Second Class Upper Division Degree filed a writ in the Sri Lanka Appellate Court requesting the quashing of the decision of the SLMC refusing her to be registered as a medical practitioner. This resulted in a number of protests breaking out and the IUSF and the GMOA worked vigorously to make sure that SAITM graduates will never be granted provincial registration by the SLMC. However, despite their best efforts, on the 31st of January 2017 the court of appeal gave its verdict stating that graduates of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine have the right to be registered with the SLMC.
Looking back, The South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) has been in conflict with the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) and Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) over the recognition of the graduates of SAITM by the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) for a considerable period of time now.
The IUSF expressed concern over SAITM being legalised being of the opinion that a private medical degree will result in anyone with money being able to become a doctor. They claim that the students of SAITM are unfit and unqualified to become doctors and SAITM is a business run on profit pretending to be an educational institute.
The JVP affiliated IUSF, and GMOA stated that patients’ lives will be at risk as MBBS graduates produced by SAITM are unfit to practice medicine. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake suggested SLMC follow the recommendations made by the ten member committee it had appointed.
However, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, deputy chairperson of SAITM Himali Jayatilake stated that only nine of the ten member panel participated in the complete review process. The recommendation of this committee was for SLMC to grant provincial registration to SAITM graduates provided that they fix the shortcomings mentioned by the committee. However, the recommendations were allegedly changed to SAITM graduates not being suitable for registration before the report was handed over to the Minister of Health.
Addressing the IUSF’s and GMOA’s allegations of students of SAITM being unqualified, in an interview with The Island Dr. Sameera Senaratne stated that when admitting students the minimum requirement was having three S passes at the GCE advanced level examinations; this is the criteria enforced by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in admitting students for the MBBS program. However, in 2013 SAITM raised the minimum qualification to having to obtain two C passes and one S pass at the GCE advanced level examinations.
In the same interview, Dr. Senaratne went on to reveal that at present approximately 12% of the students have obtained three A passes at the GCE advanced level examinations and that there are also students who are short of just 0.001 on the Z score to get into a state medical faculty. Furthermore, according to Dr. Senaratne, 35% of the current students have obtained two A passes and one B pass at the GCE A/L examinations and there is also a world prize winner of London GCE Advanced levels in Biology among its current students.
It is clear that despite the allegations of the IUSF and the GMOA, admitting students to SAITM has been done in keeping with the required standards. So is it fair to deprive graduates of a UGC approved institute from pursuing their career just because they couldn’t make it to a state university? While the answer to that question could be subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the verdict has been given and the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine has won this fight.