Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Govt. acquires Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital

Pays Rs.3.55 billion SAITM to be maintained as a fully-fledged private medical college


The Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital (NFTH) affiliated to SAITM in Malabe was acquired by the Government with a payment of Rs.3.55 billion.

It was formally handed over to the Government at a ceremony held at the hospital premises in the presence of President Maithripal­a Sirisena.

The ‘Letter of Consent’ to vest the ownership and management of the NFTH in the Ministry of Health was signed by Dr. Neville Fernando, Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadas­a and Bank of Ceylon General Manager D.M. Gunasekara.

Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Rajitha Senaratne told those who had gathered at the handing over ceremony that the government would develop the NFTH as a teaching hospital in line with the Sri Jayewarden­epura Teaching Hospital (SJTH) while maintainin­g the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) as a fully-fledged private medical college with the number of MBBS students increased to 500 from the current 100.

“We expect to start normal healthcare services and management operations on August 1st after appointing a board of management similar to that of SJTH.WE will make the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital, one of the best government-owned teaching hospitals in the country,” he said.

“The handing over of the NFTH to the government was a historic occasion in the field of private investment.this is the first time a local investor had handed over his company to the government on his own free will. I have seen many private properties being acquired by government­s since my student days. When former prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranai­ke nationaliz­ed the plantation companies, the plantation­s and other crops had been sprayed with poisonous pesticides to kill the plants. But Dr. Fernando has done just the opposite by handing over the NFTH to the government for the promotion of medical education in the country.”

Recalling the start of the SAITM controvers­y, the minister said in 2010, the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) appointed a 10-member committee of medical specialist­s to inquire into the quality of education at SAITM.

“Two reports, one by nine specialist­s and another by one specialist were issued.the one-man report had directed the attention to three shortcomin­gs -- the lack of facilities for Community Medicine, Judicial Medicine and the lack of patients at the hospital for clinical training for MBBS students. It is sad to note that without addressing those issues, the SLMC had decided not to register SAITM’S MBBS graduates. On a Supreme Court order following a petition by SAITM students, the Health Ministry consented to allow SAITM students to use the Kaduwela Hospital and the Avissawell­a Base Hospital for their clinical training with each SAITM student paying Rs.50,000. But the government doctors opposed this ruling and prevented SAITM students from attending to clinical training. So, who is responsibl­e for the quality and standard issue of SAITM students,” the minister said.

He said with the setting up of NFTH, all issues relating to the standard of quality education of SAITM’S MBBS would be fully addressed and Sri Lanka would have a world-class hospital in time to come.

The minister said though Sri Lanka was one of the best countries in the region where medical care was concerned had a low doctor to population ratio with 200 doctors for 100,000 people.

“If Sri Lanka is to maintain a medicare standard similar to that in developed countries, the doctor to people ratio must be increased to 500 for 100,000 people.that is why we need to expand private medical education and prevent our children going abroad for their medical degrees.the Yahapalana Government under President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesi­nghe has allocated Rs.31 billion for medical education and patients are provided free medicine from Panadol to Rs.2 million worth of injections and drugs for cancer patients. Stents for heart surgeries, contact lenses, drugs worth millions of rupees are provided by the government free of charge. Which government has done this. Only now the people enjoy the full benefits of free health. Useless slogans, protests, strikes or vituperati­ve and insulting criticisms cannot provide these facilities to the people,” the minister said.

Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the loan obtained by Dr. Fernando would be paid back by him and once again underscore­d that the NFTH was a gift from Dr. Fernando to the country.

He said the true meaning of free education was the freedom to choose the medium of education by the student.

“Government policy is to promote private education by providing an opportunit­y to obtain higher education to those students who are unable to enter State universiti­es.that is why we need more and more medical faculties and private universiti­es to train other profession­als.the government has decided to open medical faculties at the Wayamba and Moratuwa Universiti­es and expand the available facilities at the other nine medical faculties so as to increase the annual intake,” the minister said.

Dr. Neville Fernando said his ancestors were well known philanthro­pists who had donated their wealth for the benefit of the Buddha Sasana and the people.

“I donated my hospital to the government just like my great grand father built ‘Rankoth Vihara’ in Panadura that held ‘Panadurawa­daya’ and set in motion the Buddhist renaissanc­e during the last century that ultimately led to Sri Lanka gaining independen­ce,” Dr. Fernando said.


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