Pakistani Medical practitioners are serving the humanity all over the world and they are well respected for their exceptional skills, qualifications and experience in treatment and surgery. However, over the past few years, the quality of Medical education in Pakistan has been declining steadily due to the mushroom growth of below-par educational institutions, which do not meet the regulations and standards of academics and facilities.
Over the past 5 years the medical regulatory authority – Pakistan Medical and Dental Council ((PMDC) has approved the establishment of many new private medical colleges. The policy was probably aimed to provide more educational opportunities for the youngsters and to reduce the big gap between countless patients and the small number of doctors available in the country. However, this strategy has back-fired, as some reports on the electronic media have recently highlighted increasing malpractices at many new medical colleges. This is seriously detrimental for the progress of health-care sector.
According to reports, PMDC charged a fee of upto Rs. 50 Million per college for granting approvals, while the process of inspecting the quality, faculty and facilities was also compromised in several cases, due to the presence of some corrupt elements in the system. The Young Doctors Association in Punjab, had also complained against many such malpractices in colleges and within the PMDC.
From the year 1947 till 2007 only 20 medical colleges existed all over the country. From 2007 onwards, the regulator began to recklessly approve new medical colleges all over Pakistan, without ensuring that these new institutions fulfill the PMDC laws or not. Out of these 109 new colleges, more than 80 are private institutions. The emerging challenge is that, many business investors are apparently treating these noble institutions as their lucrative businesses for making windfall profits.
The fee structures at many of these private medical colleges are built in a way, that only a small number of high-scoring students pay a nominal, subsidized fee, but a majority of students are enrolled on Self-financing basis and they are charged hefty fees of upto Rupees 700,000 per year. Such admissions are also risky because these below-merit students will pose serious threats to public health as doctors in future.
Such ignorance of merit also deprives the deserving students from their right to pursue their dream career and precious talent gets wasted in the process. Numerous cases have also been reported where wealthy candidates were granted admissions after donating over a million rupees to a private college, although the students’ mark-sheets were way below the merit list. We should fear the day, when these incompetent and dishonest students become doctors and the patients’ lives are in their hands.
The legal criteria for good quality education at a medical college involves; the creation of well equipped labs, library and other basic resources within the campus. Each department must hire an elaborate full-time faculty and support staff for every batch of 50 to 100 students. In the PMDC laws there is no room for visiting professors. Every professor must be an experienced and dedicated academician.
The college students must also get daily learning access and “House-job” programmes at a 500 bed “Teaching” hospital, that operates round the clock. According to PMDC rules, every teaching hospital associated with any medical college, must offer a wide range of health care services. These departments should include; Emergency Ward, medicine, surgery, Gynaecology, obstetrics, paediatrics etc. and the flow of patients and ward occupancy should be high.
Many of the private medical colleges have declared training-affiliations with small ill-equipped hospitals, where the students cannot get enough hands on experience during the house job. Their academic practices are flawed and the examination systems at such colleges involve bribing and corruption. Thus, many graduates from these colleges are getting low quality education without much practical exposure.
Due to the imprudent approval of medical education instutions, a serious lack of qualified and dedicated professors is now hindering the learning process for the students. Many of these ill-equipped colleges, falsely highlight some leading Doctors as their departmental heads, while practically, many of those “department heads” are fully committed to their clinics, with no time to spare for the college. Thus, these fake departmental heads are rarely seen visiting the college.
The PMDC should take concrete measures to ensure that merit prevails at these private colleges. The admissions process should be transparent and the examinations system should be purely based on competence. Otherwise, some fake profiteering colleges will keep fleecing the students while producing certified quacks with no practical knowledge. The system of surprise inspections of every college should also be implemented more prudently. If the PMDC allows this corruption to continue, the patients’ trust on the medical profession will be diminished. The upright stake-holders, regulators and office-bearers should reallign their efforts to save the sanctity of this profession.