The inordinate delay on the part of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) to conduct the Examination to Register to Practice Medicine (ERPM) has violated the fundamental rights of around 1,000 foreign medical graduates, the students’ association charged.
“We decided to return to Sri Lanka to pursue a career in medicine and serve our motherland, but the prolonged delay in conducting this mandatory examination has resulted in a gross waste of our time, money and efforts”, the Foreign Medical Graduates’ Association said in a statement following a silent protest at the ‘agitation site’ opposite the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday.
The SLMC is the statutory council responsible for conducting the ERPM, and all foreign medical graduates with medical degrees from universities recognized by the SLMC are eligible to sit for the exam, as long as they submit their degree and other supporting documents to the SLMC and obtain a Degree Approval, the statement noted.
As outlined in the Degree Approval document, the ERPM consists of four parts (A, B, C, D) and the SLMC is responsible for conducting each part at least twice each year. The last ERPM (part A and D) exam was held in July 2019. Since then, for over one year, the exams have not been held. The SLMC failed to officially advise the foreign medical graduates awaiting the examination regarding the reasons for the delay, the students complained.
“There is now a cumulative total of about 1,000 foreign medical graduates awaiting the examination. It was said that the reason for the delay were petitions filed against the SLMC in the Supreme Court. However, this was never officially made known by the SLMC until 08.06.2020, when some foreign medical graduates submitted a RTI (Right to Information) to the SLMC to find out officially the reason for the delay in conducting the ERPM, the statement further said.
“The response to the RTI, dated 12.06.2020, signed by SLMC Registrar, Dr. Ananda Hapugoda, mentioned six cases filed against the SLMC in the Supreme Court as the reason for the delay. The Registrar also assured us that after the cases were over, there will be no hindrance in conducting the ERPM examination”, the statement noted.
The six petitions that named the SLMC as the respondent were filed by foreign medical graduates, whose application for Degree Approval was rejected by the SLMC on the basis that they did not have the necessary A/L results to practice medicine. On July 23, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of petitioners outlining that, according to the Medical Ordinance of Sri Lanka, there is no such minimum A/L requirement for practicing medicine in Sri Lanka, and that the SLMC was operating outside its rights in imposing arbitrary requirements upon foreign medical graduates, the statement asserted.
Following this, on August 12, 2020, the SLMC released a notice that called all eligible candidates to apply for the ERPM Part A and D. The period for applications was from August 24 to September 7, 2020. Candidates who had been waiting eagerly for over a year, immediately made the necessary payments (Rs. 20,000 per person), and handed over their applications. However, on September 3, 2020, the SLMC released another notice that the closing date for applications had been extended indefinitely. No reason was outlined for this, it further said.
“A few concerned candidates visited the SLMC seeking answers. Though no answer was given in writing, speaking to some officials of the SLMC led us to believe that there are some internal issues within the SLMC over the Supreme Court ruling, and this has resulted in the exam being delayed indefinitely”, the statement added.