30 years of service to humanity
In march 1988, a group of Tamil Srilankan Health care Professions met in East London to Consider the concept of a Medical Institute for Tamils.
நோய்நாடி நோய்முதல் நாடி அதுதணிக்கும் வாய்நாடி வாய்ப்பச் செயல்.
Disease, its cause, what may abate the ill:
Let leech examine these, then use his skill. Couplet : 948
The Background and the History
“Thamil House” at 720 Romford Road Manor Park London E12 68T is where the history begins. This building was owned by few members of the Tamil Community in the 1980’s. The Tamil Information Centre too had its offices at this premises. It was a meeting place for our community. Many from various walks of life would gather to exchange information, news about our homeland and specifically the politics and the war situation. The anti-Tamil pogrom of July 1983 in which more than 3000 Tamil people were murdered on the streets and in their homes in Sri Lanka, marked the beginning of an exodus of Tamil professionals from the island. Many Tamil Doctors who were working in the south of the island went through their worst experience when their patie nts and fellow staff members who were Sinhalese turned against them in an orgy of violence, purely because they were Tamils. Some of them were fortunate enough to be rescued by few kind hearted Sinhala people. The survivors eventua ll y fled the island and sought refuge in far flung places including the UK. The doctors who had reached the UK faced new challenges in continuing their career with stiff PLAB examinations. Passing the PLAB was essential for them to practice medicine in UK. At a time when there were no other coaching facilities – internet was not even in the common vocabulary – a group of Tamil doctors organised workshops to coach the new co mers and produced very good result s. Many of the new doctors secured employment with the NHS.
Early days of Progress and Development of MIOT
The four doctors took the next step by gathering more of like minded colleagues for further in-depth discussion on forming an organisation. At a meeting held at “Thamil house”, a steering committee of eighteen doctors was formed with Dr S Pasupathyrajah as the Chairman. The steering committee was tasked with dfafting a constitution for the organisation. A process of consultation continued for over six months at various centres around the British Isles. A proposal by Dr N Sivananthan to name the organisation “Medical Institute of Tamils” – (MIOT for short). A draft constitution was prepared for adoption at a general meeting.
The first general meeting
The first general meeting of MIOT was held on 8 January 1989 at Trinity church hall in
East London, where over 200invited medical and dental professionals assembled. A constitution was adopted
and the first executive committee was elected unanimously with Dr S Pasupathyrajah as the president. The first souvenir of MIOT was published featuring articles by Dr Pasupathyrajah, Dr Jayaratnam, Dr Mahendran, Dr Nerminathan Dr Sivananthan and DrSelvaratnam on a variety of topics.
The prime objectives of the organization were clearly defined and enunciated, based on the increasing health needs of our community. The continuing war situation had caused further migration in large numbers. The Medical personnel faced innumerable barriers in obtaining suitable jobs. MIOT played a significant role in
crossing these barriers. We identified four main areas of responsibility.
• Medical education and resources
• Medical advice and research
• Health projects for Tamil community
• Finances and social activities.
Defined tasks were undertaken on all four areas, to help the medical personnel who were facing new challenges in UK. The health needs of the newly arrived Tamil refugees too had to be met. Many of the new arrivals had the language barrier which hindered their access to health care. MIOT helped with medical advice as well as finding them general practitioners who could communicate with them in their own language.
Health needs of people at home were deteriorating with the escalation of war. We were able to establish links with our colleagues who were still serving in the Northeast to identify projects through which we could meet some of the health needs. Projects submitted by them were scrutinized, prioritized and met as much as possible with the limited resources available.
Growth and recognition of MIOT
The first few years of MIOT saw a steady growth in membership. We organized many activities to raise the profile of the organization. Annual cultural programs such as “Mutthamil Maalai” and “Tear Drops ” became huge attractions. We were able to raise funds through these events to help financing essential health related projects in the homeland.
“No one is very important to the organisation but everyone is needed”
– Dr Sivananthan
“Do not ask the organisation what it has done to you, rather you contemplate what you have done to it”
– Dr Velayuthapillai
“Do not criticise others in the organisation, but criticise your own self”
– Dr Pasupathirajah
The next phase
Recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals to provide the services. Moves are underway to get the centre accredited for post graduate training by the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine which will attract clinicians to work at this centre. It is also planned to train healthcare assistants at this centre.
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