Malabe asks for second chance as govt. doctors call for its closure

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

As the Government Medical Officers’ Association strongly urged the closure of the private medical college in the light of the findings of a high-level committee, its Malabe authorities assured that they would work with the University Grants Commission and the Sri Lanka Medical Council to sort out issues.
“The Health Ministry committee’s observations are perfect and have proven beyond any doubt that Malabe has violated all the rules,” stressed GMOA Secretary Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa.

Parents who have filed a case leaving the Kaduwela courts on Friday.
Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

The batches of students who have been recruited before Malabe was granted degree-awarding status in August 2011 should be sent to Russia to follow the full medical degree programme at an SLMC-recognised university, then come back, sit the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) and join the medical service after passing it, he said.

Those students who have been admitted to Malabe after it was granted degree-awarding status but against the decision of the Health Ministry, should be repaid their full fees and asked to leave. As they have been at Malabe only for a few months, there will be no injustice to them if they are paid back their monies, he said.

The GMOA’s stand comes in the wake of findings by the five-member high-powered committee set up by the Health Ministry and headed my Ministry Secretary Dr. Ravindra Ruberu that the entire process of setting up the Malabe medical college was flawed.

The Sunday Times exclusively reported the committee’s findings last week. “It is also clear that even though the South Asia Institute of Technology and Management (SAITM) was specifically informed by the Board of Investment that to start any course under health sciences it should get Health Ministry approval and for medicine SLMC approval as well as an affiliation with an SLMC-recognised foreign university, it ignored those instructions and misled the public,” Dr. Epitakaduwa pointed out, explaining that “second chances” cannot be given to people or institutions that break the law or blatantly flout regulations.
Citing Sakvithi as an example, he asked whether he should be given a second chance on promises or assurances that he will re-start his business legally.

“SAITM should be punished, second chances are usually not given to wrong-doers,” he said.
Referring to the terms of reference of the committee which probed SAITM, he said there is no room for a conclusion or recommendation. “But they have given some conclusions and we consider that part beyond their duty. The observations also don’t tally with the conclusion.”

If the Government needs to approve private medical colleges, the minimum standards set out by the SLMC should be strictly adhered to. These standards should also be gazetted, added Dr. Epitakaduwa.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Malabe private medical faculty, Sameera Senaratne, said that the report’s conclusion is clear and they would work with the UGC, SLMC and Health Ministry.

The Sunday Times was asked to contact the Director by Malabe Founder Dr. Neville Fernando’s household, after several futile attempts to reach Dr. Fernando. We have been working under the UGC and even the Student Selection Committee has a UGC member while the UGC is monitoring our work, said Director Senaratne, referring to the time after Malabe was granted degree-awarding status.
The hospital being built to facilitate clinical studies will be ready by July 1, he said.

There are six batches and about 400 students, according to him. Some students had left, he conceded.
When asked about the cases filed by some parents, he said they would fight them. He declined to give details as the legal team appointed by Dr. Fernando was handling them.

Director Senaratne said that he didn’t know about the restriction by the Health Ministry on taking new batches as he was not informed. With regard to the basic qualifications needed to enter the Malabe medical faculty, the UGC criteria of three simple passes were being followed, he said.

Probe report not yet sent to UGC?

We have not seen the Health Ministry report on SAITM, said a high-level UGC source, declining to comment.

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