By Kumudini Hettiarachchi
The head and four others of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) were sacked on Friday afternoon by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi with the removal letters being delivered halfway through the SLMC’s monthly meeting which had started at 1 p.m.
The dramatic removal of SLMC President Prof. Harendra de Silva and others came following a report by a five-member committee appointed by the minister to inquire into complaints against the SLMC, the state watchdog body of medical education and professionalism.
Prof. de Silva and the four others removed were appointed by the former Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne. The new President of the SLMC is Prof. Vajira H.W. Dissanayake.
The ministerial directive has split the medical community with the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) criticising the move and accusing the minister of succumbing to the wishes of a trade union, while the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) welcomed it.
Among the adverse findings of the committee were undue delay of conducting elections; issues pertaining to de-recognition of foreign university degrees; registration of medical graduates with substandard qualifications; undue delay in conducting ERPM Examination (Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine); complaints regarding irregular disciplinary procedures conducted by SLMC; misinterpreting Gazette regulations on disciplinary procedures.
The committee comprising Dr. Hemantha Perera (Chairman), Dr. Anula Wijesundere, Prof. Prashantha Wijesinghe, Dr. Maithri Chandraratne and Dr. Dharshana Sirisena had been appointed in September to inquire into, inter-alia, allegations made by the GMOA. It had recommended that the President and the Minister’s nominees to the SLMC be “high calibre” medical professionals.
The AMS was unequivocal that the sacking was illegal, while the GMOA was adamant that it was the right thing to do as Prof. de Silva and the four others appointed by the former Health Minister had not taken action to redress certain important issues with regard to medical education.
“We as well as several others have been complaining about these issues for a long time. These are the basis of the ToR of the inquiry committee appointed by the Minister. We hear that the committee report is out but have not seen it,” said GMOA’s Dr. Haritha Aluthge.
The AMS called for the report to be made public.