Tuesday, December 8, 2015
By Sanath Lamabadusuriya
In the late 1950's or early 1960's, the government decided to establish a second medical school in Peradeniya so as to solve the problem of shortage of doctors in the country. We who sat the University Entrance examination (equivalent of today's "A" levels) in December 1960 were the beneficiaries, because the intake was increased. All those who passed in all 4 subjects were selected for direct admission to Peradeniya and others like us who failed in one subject, had to follow a 6 months course in the failed subject in Colombo's Science Faculty in 1961. Of the latter group, some entered the Colombo Medical Faculty and the others the Peradeniya Medical Faculty in June 1962. As the buildings at Peradeniya were not ready, its first batch entered late and eventually qualified in January 1967. We qualified in March 1967.
After the first Peradeniya batch completed their internship, they were informed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) that employment was not available and were offered a monthly allowance and requested to attach themselves to a GP. Few months later, all of them were offered jobs in the MOH. It is rather ironical that the Government which created a second medical faculty to solve the problem of shortage of doctors in the country was unable to offer employment to its very first batch!
That is the time we all started sitting for the *ECFMG because of the uncertainty of employment in Sri Lanka's MOH. Nearly all of us who sat the ECFMG passed it at the first attempt and applied for jobs in the US. As the US had a shortage of doctors at that time, all who applied for jobs were successful. By this time, the MOH was able to offer jobs to all of us. However, some of our batchmates decided to emigrate. After a few months, they wrote back saying how wonderful it is to work in the US. Most of them started in Coney Island hospital in New York. As the 'brain drain" gathered momentum in the next few years, the government introduced in 1972, a 5 year period of compulsory service.
So dear friends, that is how the "brain drain" started and is still continuing, although to a lesser extent.
PS: *ECFMG" was an examination conducted by the Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates. At that time, it was the sole qualifying exam to select foreign qualified medical graduates to practice as doctors in the United States.