KARACHI – National investigation agencies should probe private medical colleges in the country who are behaving like “the worst type of extortionists” by collecting “bhatta” from parents of aspiring medical students, said Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) President Professor Dr Shabbir Ahmed Lehri.
Speaking to the media at the International Conference on Patient Safety at Aga Khan University Hospitals, Lehri said that medical education was being sold by such institutions and parents are being asked to pay “extortion money” in the garb of donations.
He claimed no official records are being kept of these “donations” and thus parents cannot prove that they have given money to private medical colleges for this children’s admission. The PMDC chief urged the national investigation agencies to probe these scammers and vowed that if evidence is found of such activities, the PMDC would cancel the registration of such colleges.
According to Lehri, donations to education institutions are meant to be voluntarily given and as per the financial status of the donors, but some private colleges were taking ‘bhatta’ (extortion money) from parents and that should no longer be tolerated.
“I would urge parents to keep a record of the bhatta demanded by private medical colleges in the garb of donations,” he said. “We would not only cancel the registration of such medical colleges but criminal cases would also be lodged against their administrations.”
Lehri said that the exploitation of parents should come to an end and agencies including National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency should launch a crackdown and put the culprits behind bars.
Lamenting that with the mushroom growth of medical colleges, the level of medical education in the country is deteriorating day by day, Lehri said admissions in return for “donations” was the murder of merit and an injustice to the deserving and hard-working students.
“Pakistani medical professionals are working at the world’s leading hospitals and healthcare facilities. God forbid, if any mishap occurs by any doctor from these private medical colleges, which are compromising on quality of medical education because of their greed, thousands of Pakistani doctors could be deported,” he warned.
Lehri also called the National Testing Service (NTS) a “mafia” saying parents were being forced to pay thousands of rupees to get their children prepared for the entry tests of medical colleges.
“NTS and its allied academies, tuition centres and coaching institutions are acting like a mafia. They are also extorting money for preparing students for an entry test, which is ridiculous. Nothing like this happens anywhere else in the world,” he said. “This system should be abolished once and for all.”
Lehri acknowledged that the NTS did a good job in its first few years of inception, but has now become inefficient because it cannot even keep its test papers from being leaked to students – first in Punjab and most recently in Sindh.
“I would demand that this system be immediately wrapped up and that instead of bringing in another testing service, the government should restore the credibility of the intermediate board exams,” he said.
Commenting on unethical practices by doctors of seeking financial benefits from pharmaceutical companies, he said doctors were a part of this society and in order to curb these practices, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) should lower the profit margin of the pharmaceutical companies.
“The cost of manufacturing a drug is Rs 6 but DRAP allows the company to sell it for Rs 60 and Rs 120, which allows the manufacturers to spend Rs 10-20 on doctors to convince them to prescribe their drugs,” he claimed. “If profit margins are reduced, these companies would not be able to bribe the doctors.”