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Private medical faculty for national interest or personal agenda?

Once again the smear machine against doctors, medical students and the nation’s healthcare system has started to roll. Once again it’s the same scenario repeating it, where certain individuals, already soaked in wealth capitalise on the noble profession of medicine, try to further their personal agendas, by creating a private medical faculty in Malabe. Only difference this time around is that it is coming in the form of patriotism, unblemished love for the country and everything. Not surprisingly it is a former politician who is aiming to compromise our medical system, in the name of giving equal opportunities to all students, rich and poor alike, with a six million rupee medical (crash) course. The fact that it is the very same profession that they stigmatise and bring disrepute using all available media, is the very profession they are attempting to gain a foothold on, is ironical. But it seems to be the endless financial opportunities they see in this profession and not the wellbeing of the patient which makes them want to enter the medical field by hook or by crook. A few points should be enough to expose the true intentions behind this major effort to infiltrate the medical field and exploit it for the personal gain by certain unscrupulous individuals.

Each year, more than 100,000 students, who sit for AL exam, do not gain entrance to state universities. According to its creators, this private medical faculty is going to be a solution for it. It is so absurd as to enroll just a hundred students each year, which is less than a fraction of the total left out, and still call it the solution for the lack of capacity in state universities. What is more interesting is that these students must have the capability to afford more than six million rupees, and students with such a large financial capacity, invariably have countless opportunities for higher education both locally and abroad and therefore are not part of the problem even if they do or do not get selected to state universities. It is not the same as enrolling hundred students who are unable to scrape out such a large sum of money and will remain with no opportunity for higher education. It is these students that one should focus on, if you really want the world to believe that you are true patriots.

Medicine is a noble profession that requires dedication, commitment, hard work and passion for one to become a doctor. Currently it is the AL exam that chooses the best and brightest of our students to various tough disciplines including medicine, irrespective of race, religion or whether one’s parents could afford millions of rupees or not. It is these individuals that maintain our nation’s health indexes comparable to the western world including the US and UK. But the founders of the proposed private medical faculty have stated that there will be no cut-off mark for entrance. They state their faculty gives an equal opportunity for everyone who has missed the state requirement for the medical profession.

Sri Lanka being a third world nation, it is obvious that spotting a student capable of dishing out millions of rupees and at the same time has done the AL well, would be harder than spotting the needle in the haystack. So how deep down in the results sheet will this private medical faculty go in search of our future doctors, with our country’s health and the lives of the patients directly in the line? By having no cutoff mark at all, how can one guarantee the standard and reliability of such a medical institute. By giving prominence to wealth, and by making six million rupees the only inclusion criterion, the intellectual capability of enrollees is totally ignored, and strikes a severe blow to the medical profession which rests on the fundamental pillars of analytical ability, memory and competence. This is another instance where the equal opportunity, supposedly to be provided to all students comes crashing down in a heap. What are they going do to the large number of students who are stranded because they have just missed the cut-off mark and are unable to scrape out millions of rupees? Are they going to pretend that these students are ‘non-existent’, in their way of giving equal opportunities

Furthermore, the proposed private medical faculty has not obtained the approval of the Ministry of Higher Education. The magnitude of the role played by money is highlighted by the fact that this private medical faculty is a project approved by the Board of Investment. By initiating such a project with financial profits as its measure of success and not the passing out of competent and qualified doctors, are we going to surrender our healthcare system to a few bussiness minded individuals and politicians who know next nothing about the practice of medicine? Do we want our healthcare system to be controlled by amateurs who are good in money matters but are not so good in medicine?

Another fascinating argument by those who promote private medical faculties is that Oxford, Harvard and Yale are also private universities. How on earth can this medical faculty somewhere in Malabe, be ever compared with these great universities? The naivety and ignorance of these individuals is clearly exposed by their thought that any private medical faculty will certainly be as good as these universities. However, I must add that, we didn’t need an Oxford, a Harvard or a Yale to elevate our healthcare system that can stand proudly with any healthcare system in the developed world including the USA and the UK where the greatest education institutes are largely located. That is because the factor of wealth plays an extremely low-key role in the quality of medicine. It is the attitude, competence and intelligence of our healthcare worker that bridged the gap between our country and the first world. And that is why we should thwart any attempt by anyone, to give money a dominant role over a person’s intellect.
The prime goal of an individual passing out from such a private medical faculty would be to recover his initial investment of six million rupees. Such a doctor would be driven by financial incentives and not by his patients’ wellbeing. How can the element of compassion, responsibility and understanding of the patient, which are vital and almost inseparable from the medical profession, be guaranteed by an individual whose prime motive is personal financial recovery and not patient recovery. When you also consider the quality of the doctors passing out from such an institute where standards are severely compromised, the consequences to the healthcare system would be detrimental. Mismanagement, prescription errors, overdosing and loads of other medical errors would surface and are likely to multiply in occurrence and as a result will prolong hospital stay, increase hospital admissions and create an assortment of dilemmas which would severely burden and even handicap the nation’s healthcare system. With a direct threat to the lives of patients and the general quality of health in the country reduced due to inept and financially driven healthcare professionals, the meagre amount of foreign exchange spared in the country by a few students not seeking foreign education due to local private medical faculties, will be easily outweighed.

When a former politician says he’s going to do something with unsurpassable love and affection towards his countrymen overflowing, it does not take rocket science to comprehend what is really meant. We, as a nation, are only too familiar with this kind of rhetoric. Why is that a private educational facility the only way these individuals have, when it comes to serving the country? Why is it that they want to serve a hundred students who are already well off, and call that, ‘ giving back’ to their motherland, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of our children all over the country clueless about their future? I leave it upon the reader to decide as to whether these institutions are created with true patriotism and an urgent need by these individuals to see all students gain an equal opportunity, or is to expand their already fat pockets with a six million rupee compromised medical course.
Students of the
Colombo Medical Faculty


Animal Welfare Law

It is indeed welcome that, at long last, the draft bill on Animal Welfare is before the Parliament. The ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance’ of 1907, needs revision and the disciplinary punishment too requires revision by enhancement of the existing fine which pitiably remains at Rs.250 since 1907.

Lord Buddha too gave thought to the place of the animal in human society and spoke of the right of dumb animals to compassionate treatment, but he also saw that nature had ordained that the animal serve as food for Man, through resort to humane slaughter. There exists the ‘Fauna and Flora Protection Act’ which is implemented by officers of the Wildlife Department and the Forest Department, assisted by the Police Department, which like most other things is subject to corruption. Thereby, illegal killing of animals of the wilds is checked haphazardly. Cattle and buffaloes who have no owners, graze on the grass fields adjacent to the scrub, and are periodically rounded up by men in the flesh trade, loaded into lorries and driven to towns to be slaughtered for the markets there. They have not been examined by a veterinarian, as the law requires, and are further subjected to harassment by the Police who demand to see the licence to transport animals. Unable to produce a permit they bribe the policeman on duty, thereby fostering corruption. Since lorry hire is not cheap, the animals are jammed into the little space in the vehicle causing much stress to the animals, transgressing the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ law. The scandalous impunity with which the flesh trade proceeds unmanageably calls for a special committee consisting of the Police and Veterinary Departments to supervise and streamline the flesh trade.

With the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ plan to step up the economy in the hinterland villages the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and livestock production will receive special attention along with paddy cultivation. Dairying and poultry farming is receiving attention benefiting the village gentry and soon vegetables, fruits and flesh will swell, compelling the authorities to look for markets abroad. Middle East countries may prove to be good marketing ground bringing in foreign money which will be welcome, for the economic advancement of the homeland. Fresh cow milk will be available in the village, reducing the import bill on milk powder. The problem of draft animals too will ease.

It is time that like the British rulers the administrators thought out a fool proof plan for the import of pet animals like dogs. The profusion of dogs on the streets requires stringent laws to compel owners to license their animals, thereby bringing in revenue to the country’s coffers. All dogs should carry a license on its collar. Any dog found on the roads, even on a leash, if not licensed, should be led to the dog pound, and if not claimed within a specified of time, gassed, and the owner, if found, fined to cover the cost to the State. Dog lovers, even through organisations, should not intervene, for it is they who have precipitated this despicable problem. If anyone is bitten by a dog, the person is promptly vaccinated against rabies and treated medically, free of any charge, in any State hospital. As the expense is borne by the country’s citizens, to recoup the money owners should be charged. If the authorities get in touch with a Korean meat trader the dogs could be exported to that country where dog flesh is a rare delicacy.
As for holding exotic birds and other fauna in captivity, though a law exists, its implementation is lax. Appointing officials and animal welfare inspectors will be welcome provided it does not spawn a breed of bloodsuckers looking for santhosums to exonerate persons who trespass unintentionally. Corruption will grow with another avenue installed. The suggested criminal action against wrongdoers, will be a heinous offence against Humanity, for man was born an omnivore and depriving him of a staple will be a drastic infringement of his right to the life he was born to. It will be equivalent to depriving the bovine of grass or the bird of berries and insects. Animal lovers should not displace humanity from its pedestal. Pity, compassion and kindness are innate attributes of the cultured mind, which protects the dumb from wanton hurt. Willing harm is an attribute of the sadist.

Gehan Alwis




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