SAITM students still finding solace in courts? | Sunday Observer

SAITM students still finding solace in courts?

SAITM - the medical college that had gone dead became a hot talking point again last week, following an injunction order given by the Court of Appeal (CA). Upholding an application filed by SAITM medical graduates, the injunction order was issued by the Courts last Tuesday (February 26) preventing the Ministry of Health granting appointments to medical interns to state hospitals.

The provisional registration suggestedby the Ministry of Health for medical graduates of State Universities (SU) and the Kothalawela Defence University (KDU) by a special circular on January 29 had strictly stated that recruitment was only open to graduates of those medical universities.

Presidents’ Counsel Upul Jayasuriya and Kolitha Dharmawardena appearing on behalf of SAITM medical graduates argued in Court that as SAITM is recognised by the University Grants Commission and Sri Lanka Medical Ordinancelike all other State medical faculties and the KDU, and also based on the court judgements given on two occasions stating that SAITM graduates should be registered at SLMC, it is a violation of the fundamental rights of SAITM graduates, not being absorbed into medical internship.

The court finally issued the injunction order stopping the recruitment of 278 medical graduates, temporarily.

The Attorney General’s Department appeared on behalf of the Ministry. The SLMC also a respondent to the case, was an observer throughout the trial.

The Ministry of Health was in the process of registering 278 students from the SU and KDU excluding the SAITM graduates, as registering SAITM students at the Sri Lanka Medical Council has been delayed for months.

In 2016, an MBBS graduate from SAITM went before the CAdemanding registration at SLMC. The CA determined that the petitioner had no obstacle to being registered at SLMC as a medical practitioner, in terms of the Section 29 (2) of the Medical Ordinance. Challenging that decision, SLMC re-appealed to the Supreme Court (SC) which also ended with the same judgement.

In keeping with the court order, SLMC wrote to the petitioner to submit a fresh application once again, which she then refused as she had already submitted her documents prior to the court hearings. Months later, as the silence was deafening, the same SAITM student filed a Contempt of Court petition against the SLMC in the SC.

Meanwhile, Convenor of the Medical Faculty Students’ Action Committee (MFSAC), the student union of all state medical faculties, Didula Amarasinghe alleged the readiness of the government to recruit an interim batch of interns. “It is nothing but a coup to grant access to SAITM graduates to the medical profession,” he said.

“The Ministry said that there is an urgent requirement of interns. When we look at the number of applicants only 50 are local graduates. More than 200 foreign degree holders and 20 KDU graduates are to be registered,” said Amarasinghe.

The MFSAC believes that the government wanted to absorb SAITM students to the system by letting this process be upheld by the intervention of Courts.

“They (SAITM graduates) filed a case on February 14 and the hearing was on February 27. Then they submitted a motion again and received a hearing on February 26 with the aim of stopping recruitments. That is why we suspect this is a plan in which the government could also be a part of. The government wanted to publicise that there is an urgent requirement of medical interns, but the hidden agenda was to recruit SAITM students,” said Amarasinghe.

There are 85 SAITM graduates affected by the ongoing turmoil in registering at the SLMC and now with regard to of recruiting them as medical interns.

It is also reported that as a result of the boycott of lectures at state medical faculties for over a year due to the SAITM issue, there are serious gaps in the recruitment of medical interns.

In fact, the new batch of medical interns were to be registered in November last year, but the boycott of lectures had dragged on till June 2019.

“We got to know that the Ministry of Health is planning to recruit medical interns by the end of February. The circular issued by the Ministry had deliberately missed out SAITM graduates. As a result of that circular, we sent a letter of demand to the Ministry for which we received no response. Then we had no option other than seeking justice through Courts,” said a spokesperson from the SAITM Medical Graduates Association who spoke to the Sunday Observer on the basis of anonymity.

“This clearly is a violation of our fundamental rights,” he said.

Amarasinghe alleged that the inability to fulfill required qualifications of some of the SAITM graduates is what stops them from being registered at KDU which is the resolution passed by the Special Presidential Committee headed by Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva.

“Some of the petitioners even don’t have three passes at the GCE A/Ls. One such student who is in the forefront now, only has Edexcel. That student has sat neither local A/Ls nor the London A/Ls. That is the real problem behind the issue,” Amarasinghe said.

Despite several attempts by the writer, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was not available for comment. The next hearing on recruiting medical interns will be on March 27.