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Cabinet nod for three private medical colleges

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In a significant development, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced yesterday that the Cabinet has granted approval for the establishment of three private medical colleges in Sri Lanka.

Minister Rambukwella emphasized that these new medical institutions will adhere to the standards set by existing medical schools in the country.

Addressing a media briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) yesterday (11) on the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’, Minister Rambukwella elaborated on the initiative, stating: “The Cabinet has already given its approval to launch three new medical colleges. These institutions must maintain the same high standards as our existing medical schools. We must consider the number of our youth who choose to study in private institutions or abroad. It is our moral duty to provide adequate facilities and opportunities for our country’s children.”

The Minister further said that “Professors who have worked as consultants in the medical colleges of our country have outlined minimum qualifications. There is a law that mandates other recognized medical schools in this country to meet or exceed these standards. Additionally, three hospitals have been integrated into these universities.”

The Minister also revealed that these universities have been urged to allocate scholarships to 10 percent of their student population, acknowledging the existence of qualified students who face financial barriers to pursuing medical education.

Minister Rambukwella took the opportunity to address concerns about the brain drain of medical professionals, attributing it to economic challenges faced by the country in 2019. He assured that the Government is committed to addressing these issues, particularly regarding doctors’ remuneration.

He highlighted the need for comprehensive short, medium and long-term plans to address these challenges and pointed out that countries like England offer significantly higher salaries to medical professionals educated in Sri Lanka’s free education system.

“In furtherance of our commitment to addressing critical healthcare challenges, it is essential to consider augmenting the intake capacity in specific domains. Currently, there exist stipulated minimum qualifications and approximately 13 medical faculties throughout the country. Regrettably, only around 2,000 individuals are admitted into these institutions. It is evident that there is ample room to expand these numbers, as the intellectual capabilities of our nation’s youth are beyond question. It is imperative to provide opportunities to those with foundational qualifications who aspire to excel in the medical field.”

In a related development, the motion of no confidence presented against Minister Rambukwella in Parliament was defeated. He acknowledged the constructive suggestions provided during the debate and pledged to take steps to implement them. He also presented evidence countering false allegations made during the motion, including concerns about the quality and availability of medicines.

“In response to allegations raised within the no-confidence motion, particularly concerning the quality of medicines, I had the opportunity to present evidence substantiating the veracity of our claims. Reference was made to a report from 2017 highlighting issues related to substandard medications, with subsequent years showing varying numbers of such incidents: 85 in 2018, 96 in 2019, 77 in 2020, 88 in 2021, 86 in 2022 and 43 so far in 2023.”

“It is worth noting that, in some cases, reports of substandard drugs have emerged years after their approval, registration and utilization. We have initiated a comprehensive investigation into these reported incidents of inferior quality medicines. Additionally, there were allegations regarding the shortage of essential medicines, a concern we take seriously and are actively addressing.”

“Our ongoing commitment remains to bolster our healthcare system, ensure the availability of high-quality medicines and provide opportunities for aspiring medical professionals. We recognize the need for continued dialogue and effective action to overcome the challenges facing our healthcare sector and to uphold the well-being of our citizens.”

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