Recently, the President and other office-bearers of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) had asked to prepare for fresh elections. The Health ministry refused to issue the notification of their elections and asked to hold fresh elections for all the executive positions of the council. In the interim period a caretaker setup was expected to be installed to carry out important tasks till the time a new administration is elected.
However things have changed since then…and it is also being suggested that the restructuring of the national watchdog of medical education and practice, is needed, to bring its workings at par with the authorities in the developed countries. Late last month, the “National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination” (NHSRC) ministry, which oversees PMDC, had convened all the stakeholders, to thoroughly discuss the matter.
Now almost a week after the meeting, the ministry has formed a four strong panel with equal representation of all the four provinces to thoroughly examine the countrywide medical and dental education and practice, the PMDC law, and the alleged irregularities in the recognition of medical and dental colleges, registration of doctors and dentists, the PMDC administrative and financial affairs, and the recent elections of the Council, before suggesting corrective measures in writing.The PMDC representatives approved the move and assured the ministry its full cooperation and support in this respect.
The panel includes Professor Mahmood Shaukat of Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Medical College, Professor Muhammad Khurshid of Karachi’s Aga Khan University Hospital, former principal of Peshawar’s Khyber Medical College – Professor Nasiruddin Azam Khan and Dr Naimatullah Gichki, former principal of Quetta’s Baolan Medical College. The panel has one month to complete these tasks.
Saira Afzal Tarar , the NHSRC Minister confirmed the constitution of the committee and said that the ministry was committed to reforming PMDC in consultation with stakeholders, however she denied the earlier reports that ministry had dissolved or planned to dissolve the current Council of PMDC. She insisted that the ministry would reform PMDC only by acting upon the recommendations of the recently-constituted, independent committee of experts.
Earlier the NHSRC Minister – had chaired a meeting of the countrywide stakeholders of medical and dental profession and it was decided that the incumbent elected council of PMDC would stay, because the matter about its status is sub-judice.
As for the remaining elected member of the council the minister said that the NHRS&C ministry would decide about their notification.
The accusations against PM&DC Registrar – Dr Amjad Mehmood were termed as baseless. Dr. Amjad has been accused by the media for recognizing many fake medical degrees and qualifications. It was clarified that the matter of Dr Amjad Mehmood’s repatriation is also sub-judice and therefore, it should not be commented upon.
Another twist in the story is that PMDC and NAB are fighting it out to decide as to who will take action against recognition of sub-standard colleges recently given recognition.
“We are planning to conduct inspections of private medical colleges in Karachi, because many of them do not comply with PMDC standards,” said Wajid Durrani, Director General NAB Sindh.
“We are allowed to intervene even in the matters of regulatory bodies such as the PMDC, as per Section 33-C of the National Accountability Ordinance, but have halted the procedure due to reservations expressed by the Council,” said Durrani.
Perhaps the most infamous among all private medical colleges of the city is the Sir Syed College of Medical Sciences (SSCMS). “The female staffroom at the SSCMS did not even have fans, the washrooms usually had no water. While the college charges each student around Rs 400,000 per annum. There were teachers at the college who were being paid as low as Rs 15,000,” said a former SSCMS lecturer.
Dr Samreena Hashmi, president of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), was also critical of the PMDC’s performance. “Over the past five years, the PMDC has issued an outrageous number of licenses to private colleges across the country. There were instances when 17 substandard universities were issued licenses within a week,” she said.
However, Dr Hashmi maintains that the NAB has no right to intervene in matters relating to the PMDC. “I agree that private colleges are minting money, but we must let the doctors take charge and allow the PMDC to come up with a collective solution,” she stated.