The South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) has won the legal battle to award MBBS medical degrees in Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court recently dismissed the case against the institute, paving the way for it to award medical degrees to students of its Malabe Medical College. The training will be monitored by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

President of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), Prof. Lalitha Mendis has stated that the college may exist as a Degree Awarding Institute referred to in the Universities Act (Section 25 and 70A – 70D of part IXA) and also in the Medical Ordinance (Medical Amendment Act No. 25 of 1988).

Hence, all students of the Malabe Medical College will be able to practice as doctors in Sri Lanka once they pass out. They will also be able to practice abroad by sitting for exams such as the PLAB exam in the UK.

President and Chairman of SAITM, Dr. Neville Fernando said the institute has around 500 medical students, and that the first batch of around 40 students will pass out in two years. He noted that the institute will save the country much foreign exchange by enabling students to study medicine in Sri Lanka. The cost of obtaining a medical degree here is far less than what it would cost in the UK, US or Australia.

According to Dr. Fernando, pursuing a medical degree in the UK would cost Rs. 10 million a year, whereas the entire 5-year degree could be completed here for just Rs. 6 million.

He also said the institute brings in valuable foreign exchange as foreign nationals and the children of expatriates study here and pay fees in foreign currency.

Students of the Malabe Medical College will also benefit greatly from the nearby 1002-bed private teaching hospital established recently by Dr. Neville Fernando. It is the first private teaching hospital and the largest private hospital in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Fernando said the out-patient department has commenced functioning and patients there are examined by students and demonstrations are given by consultant surgeons and physicians. It is intended to begin admitting patients to the medical ward by mid-December. “Once we install all the medical equipment we have imported, it will be the most high-tech hospital in the country,” he said.

The operating theatres will be equipped with cameras so that students can watch and learn while the surgeries performed are shown live on TV in the lecture rooms. No other university in the country has this facility.

Dr. Fernando stated that patients seeking treatment at the teaching hospital will benefit from significant concessions. He noted that it is a boon to the people of Malabe and surrounding areas such as Kaduwela, Battaramulla and Athururugiriya as they will not need to travel all the way to Colombo.

The patients will be treated by highly-reputed doctors, including those who have served long in state hospitals. Some will work as fulltime physicians and others as visiting consultants. The hospital will have 6 departments covering the areas of medicine, surgery, obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics and psychiatry. There will also be 3 intensive care units (namely medical, surgical and paediatric) and a premature baby unit.

SAITM was established with the noble aim of offering a future for students who could not be admitted to state universities due to the acute shortage of capacity. Students can apply to study for the medical degree with 2 A/L credit passes and 1 simple pass in the bio-science stream. They will be trained by highly-reputed professors, including those from the medical faculties of state universities, who will be appointed shortly.

The institute will be much appreciated by parents who prefer to have their children study in Sri Lanka. It will also help students avoid a ‘cultural shock' and the cold climate they will have to face overseas. Dr. Fernando also noted that ragging doesn't exist at SAITM, and the students are well behaved and there is much friendship amongst them. He stated that since this is a fee-levying institution, there is no risk of students going on strike and boycotting classes.

SAITM, which is located in a charming setting in Malabe, opened its doors to students in August 2009. These students are now pursuing globally-recognized medical, engineering and other degrees. SAITM has 4 faculties – the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Management and Finance, and the Faculty of ICT and Media. It is the largest multi-faculty higher education institute monitored by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka.