SLMC president indirectly approving SAITM programme
The Management Committee of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) last week rejected a memo by its Chairman Prof.Carlo Fonseka to certify the transcript of a purported student of the Malabe private medical faculty.
Prof. Fonseka who is also SLMC President had submitted the memo for the second time last Wednesday, the Sunday Times understands. But the SLMC’s Management Committee had rejected it on the grounds that the committee has not assessed or monitored the degree programme and curriculum of the Malabe private medical faculty. The Management Committee comprises seven members including Chairman Prof. Fonseka.
The 10-point memo (in the possession of the Sunday Times) had earlier been submitted on July 25, while on both occasions Prof. Fonseka had failed to produce the alleged letter of request by the student which would have indicated the year she was at the Malabe private medical faculty, it is learnt.
The memo states: “I take special note of the fact that it is a student of SAITM (South Asia Institute of Technology and Management) who has made the request. She seems to have sensed that the prospects of completing her medical studies at SAITM are very slight and to cut her losses she has now decided to pursue another path……“I happen to know that the political authorities at the highest level are very concerned about the way the proprietors of SAITM have gone about their business. They are now concerned mainly about the fate and welfare of the students at SAITM.”
Following the submission of this memo, many sources were perturbed over the alleged “devious” role being played by Prof.Fonseka.As SLMC President he should be protecting and safeguarding medical education in Sri Lanka, but he seems to be advocating the approval of the medical course of study before the faculty was granted degree-awarding status, a senior in the medical field said.
The Malabe private medical college (part of SAITM) set up in 2009 has been embroiled in a major controversy, with the University Grants Commission granting it “provisional” recognition as a degree-awarding institution only in August last year (2011) on condition that certain requirements would be met in a stipulated time period. A high-level five-member committee of the Health Ministry headed by then Secretary Dr. Ravindra Ruberu also put out a scathing report this year (2012), pinpointing numerous flaws in the setting up of the Malabe private medical faculty.
Another source stressed that Prof.Fonseka should be urging the Malabe private medical faculty to put its house in order even now, without surreptitiously attempting to pressurise the SLMC to give the nod of approval to a course of medical study which to say the least seems to be substandard.
“The Malabe private medical faculty still has no functioning hospital for students to do their clinicals,” this source said, adding that its curriculum had much to be desired. The number of hours earmarked for the study of Russian, Latin and philosophy is overwhelming when compared to the essentials of basic medicine such as anatomy and physiology, he pointed out. Meanwhile, another source pointed out that Prof. Fonseka is attempting to “misuse” the Health Ministry five-member committee’s report to justify the course of study at Malabe which had been started with scant regard for right practices.
Quoting ‘1c’ of the ‘Conclusion’ of the committee dealing with ‘Students enrolled prior to the gazette notification’ which states, “Strictly subject to the SLMC approval and without this leading to any precedent, as a concession to the students who have met the SLMC eligibility criteria for admission to a medical school overseas, to explore the possibility of considering the period/or a part of the period of training in Sri Lanka as a component of the total course to be undertaken in NNSMA (Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy in Russia) as in (b) above,” the source said that Prof. Fonseka had conveniently forgotten to refer to ‘1b’.
‘1b’ of the Ministry committee’s ‘Conclusions’ states categorically: “To proceed to Nizhny Novgorod and commence training as a new student after ensuring the minimum G.C.E. (A/ Level) requirements prescribed by the SLMC, complete the entire course, pass the MD and return to Sri Lanka and apply to sit for the ERPM (Examination for Registration to Practise Medicine earlier known as the Act 16).”
“This is when there arises a doubt about the role played by Prof. Fonseka,” the source added.He stressed that the memo also seemed to have a veiled threat of the politicisation of the SLMC, when Prof. Fonseka states that “………….every order or decision of the MC (SLMC) shall be subject to appeal to the Minister whose decision shall be final. It is with all these realities in mind that we should consider the request of the student for certification of her transcript.” Is Prof. Fonseka paving the way for the politicisation of the independent SLMC, was the question worrying many senior medical people, who also wondered about the identity of this “student” without a name.
Meanwhile, several telephone calls to Prof. Fonseka’s home (he apparently does not have a mobile) by the Sunday Times to get his views, since Thursday went to a recording machine. Messages which included a phone number, left on the answering machine did not draw a response from Prof. Fonseka.
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