Last Monday, the GMOA leadership held a media briefing in Colombo, perhaps to tell the Government the present Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) should not be touched. They threatened; any move to restructure the SLMC would compel them to take trade union action immediately and without warning.
They would launch the most drastic strike action ever in Sri Lankan history, they said. Thanks to them, in the wake of their threats they qualified me by name to be a member of the SLMC.
Perhaps because I was asking for a total overhaul of the SLMC observing:
“In our culture of professional selfishness and arrogance, the SLMC to be left at the hands of the medical profession alone would be too dangerous to the health of the nation. The way out would be to include other professions as ‘community’ representations.
It has to provide provincial community representation as well, to make it a nationally
That was 01 year and 05 months ago in my article to DM on 03 March 2017, titled “SLMC needs overhaul”.
Well aware of this serious distortion in the SL Medical Council and its incapability to honour the mandate of safeguarding the health of the people, Prof. Colvin Gunaratne refused to accept the post of President SLMC when offered after Prof. Carlo Fonseka’s term came to an end. His belated consent to accept the position and subsequent taking of office two months later was underlined with the offer to “restructure the SLMC.”
“Nine months after, Prof. Gunaratne resigned from his post as President SLMC to tell the public at a media conference.
"The purpose of this Constitution must be to provide for the welfare of the general public. But as things are now, this process protects doctors and not the innocent civilians-Colvin"
“The purpose of this Constitution must be to provide for the welfare of the general public. But as things are now, this process protects doctors and not the innocent civilians.….” He qualified this by saying the archaic Medical Ordinance under which the SLMC has been established, makes the SLMC ineffective in achieving its primary objective — ensuring the welfare of the public of Sri Lanka.
What Prof Gunaratne calls “a museum piece”, the Medical Act as it stands for now provides eight elected members directly by medical doctors. Another eight members as representatives of the Medical Faculty boards from State universities. This number would keep increasing with more medical faculties on the way.
Medical faculties in Sabaragamuwa and Wayamba universities were gazetted recently and there is every possibility of Moratuwa and Uva-Wellassa Universities getting medical faculties before long with 02 private member motions in Parliament. The number of Deans in the SLMC would go up to 12 then and the irritating difficulty Prof Gunaratne had with 65 per cent union representation would go up to 70 per cent. The role of these Medical Faculty Deans in the SLMC has been taken for granted as independent academics.
But they too represent a trade union as members of the “Federation of Faculty of Medical Teachers’ Associations” (FFMTA) which has all 08 FMTAs affiliated to it. They are elected by Faculty boards consisting of members of FMTAs. Their subordination to FFMTA decisions was more than evident in how they played with the SAITM issue every time it came up for discussion in the SLMC. Within universities, pressured by medical undergrads working with the politically guided Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) and also on their own political interests, the FMTAs took up an anti SAITM stand.
We thus had a situation in universities where teaching staff in medical faculties supported student agitations. That was clearly and firmly reflected in FFMTA statements issued against SAITM openly calling it:
“We the trade unions of the academic staff of State Medical Faculties….” and its Convener Dr M.C. Weerasinghe publicly claiming he has 700 medical academics “under his charge”.
The GMOA having directly elected four of its top leadership to the SLMC can elect another four of their choice if elections are held for existing vacancies. It is impossible for independent medical practitioners to contest against GMOA nominees when the GMOA leadership uses all its resources and their organisation’s muscle power to have control over the SLMC. The GMOA is publicly accused of bringing 50 bus loads of juniors to vote for their top 04 men who contested for SLMC membership.
They had young “bullies” at the venue of elections throwing about their weight. The GMOA behaviour in the elections was more like low-grade politicians than professionals.
Interviewed on a popular TV channel last Monday night, Dr Padeniya was asked to comment on Prof. Gunaratne’s accusation that 16 members representing 02 trade unions make it impossible for SLMC to stick to its mandate in taking care of people’s health.
The Sri Lanka Medical Council should be reconstituted
The SLMC needs to be revamped to free it from the grip of the GMOA mafia
Bluffing over the issue, he claimed though he was President of a trade union, he was also a practising medical specialist, covering work of the professor for Paediatrics for over 05 years at Rajarata University (this raises another issue on Rajarata medical Faculty standards) and therefore is competent to sit in the SLMC.
His professional biographical sketch provided for the 2017 SLMC elections, highlights his work as GMOA President from 2011 and his leadership role in student unions. “As the president of the GMOA, he gave leadership to safeguard the rights of patients (sic) and medical professionals alike” the biographical sketch says, adding “As a former president of Medical Students’ Union of Colombo Medical Faculty and Vice-President of the University of Colombo Students’ Union, he championed rights of medical and other university students and fought to safeguard the free education system.”
But there is hardly anything in his achievements or his contribution to health and medical services as a medical professional.
On that election, what he avoids saying and accepting is, he and his 03 GMOA colleagues contested as GMOA nominees and not as independent individuals. What he forgets is that he himself has told very plainly that he is responsible for his membership. So are the Deans who are first responsible to their Faculty and not to the people.
If I may go further, the Medical (Amendment) Act No.40 of 1998 allows only medical practitioners and one dental practitioner registered with the SLMC in constituting the SLMC.
Thus, even those appointed by the Minister of Health under the Act have to be medical practitioners making all 25 members from one single profession.
Irrespective of how they came to be in the SLMC, there is always a singular collective mindset that first consider what they would gain as a “profession” before the “people” and the “country”.
The Act too allows for politicisation of the Medical Council with the Health Minister appointing its President and four other members. The past three years at least proved the SLMC was completely bogged down in a battle for professional interests led by the GMOA, backed by the FFMTA in controlling the entire health service. A control that allows the medical profession to have controlling access to high stakes in the growing and lucrative private health sector. The medical doctors thus prove the SLMC needs a total to revamp.
One that makes it more representative and would deny a single group or profession to dominate the SLMC.
On that, let me quote my 2017 March DM article in conclusion. On the Australian model, the summing up was. “The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) in fact has Federal State Medical Boards supporting it. There’s federal representation brought through Federal-State boards. They have highly reputed professionals including community representation with seven women out of the 13 in the elected board.”
The Canadian council includes even medical student representation which we cannot afford to, given the anarchist, irresponsible politics in the IUSF. The working of the Canadian council was summed up as follows.
“The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) also has federal and provincial representation in a Council of 52 members. The public elects up to five members and the medical undergraduates through their Canadian Federation of Medical Students elect two representatives. The Council elects its Executive Board at its annual meeting for regular deliberations on routine matters.”
"They had young bullies at the venue of elections throwing about their weight"
The British General Medical Council (GMC) “….has 12 elected members with six elected to represent the community, called ‘lay members’. Lay members are not from the medical profession and represent other disciplines. Interestingly in the present GMC, all06 lay members are women (in 2017 February it was 05).” The core ingredients of the GMC strategy for 2018 to 2020 are (1) Supporting doctors in delivering good medical practice (2) Strengthening collaboration with regulatory partners across the health services (3) Strengthening relationship with the public and the profession (4) Meeting the changing needs of the health services across the four countries of the UK.
That says why the SLMC needs to be revamped to free it from the grip of the GMOA mafia. And giving them further control of the SLMC allows continued decay of our total healthcare service.
This from my previous article sums up all.
“They demand ‘free’ education to become medical doctors at the expense of taxpayers and then the right to continue ‘selling’ healthcare at prices they determine to the very taxpayers, who paid for their ‘free’ education.
They work for private medical care at the expense of free health.
It is therefore hard to believe and there is no necessity to believe the medical profession and the GMOA are interested in the health and wellbeing of the community and the people.”