PMDC autonomy urged to regulate quality medical education

Karachi, Oct 27: The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) should be made autonomous body in the real sense in order to regulate quality medical education and register doctors. This will ensure their accountability for their medical mistakes, doctors said on Friday.

The body should comprise stakeholders as at present, government nominees are dominating it. But recently, the nominated representatives of private medical colleges have gotten control over it at the cost of the post-graduate deans of the country's teaching hospitals, said Dr Tipu Sultan. They were allegedly furthering their vested interests by setting up medical colleges (MCs) in rented houses without full, registered faculties. He said that the MCs were minting money as they had enhanced their fee tremendously recently up to Rs300,000-400,000.

These MCs also increased the number of seats from the permitted number, that is, 50 to 100. "This is a pathetic situation in terms of ethics, the standard of education, quality control, faculty and the number of students," Dr Sultan, the senior faculty member, said.

He claimed that around 20 MCs lacked proper faculty. He said that the registration committee of the PMDC had been made ineffective and now just one person can recognise any college without following the required procedure and conducting the prescribed inspection.

He said that the faculty members were working in three other places at least. He pointed out that one MC increased its fee from Rs100,000 to Rs400,000 while it also charged Rs200,000 as "donations" from each student. He claimed that last year, one medical and dental college in the city charged Rs100,000 from each student for the issuance of an academic certificate.

Dr Sultan said that another medical college was allowed 50 students but it enhanced the number to 100. Now the number of students studying there are 229 and it charges Rs400,000 per student. He said that one medical college purportedly set up for expatriate Pakistanis in the city was charging around $15,000 per student and it has been allowed to enroll 100 students. Also, the faculty of two government medical colleges was transferred there. Another medical college was charging $12,000 per each expatriate student but this year, it increased its fee by $2,500.

He asked where this money would go and lamented that it was the height of "immoral behaviour". In fact, now even government colleges are allegedly involved in minting money. He said that the Indian medical council has around 35 whereas those of the PMDC are 100.

He said that one of the consequences of the lack of effectiveness of the PMDC was that thousands of doctors were practicing without registration at the cost of the people's lives. He said that there was no accountability for doctors. The PMDC, he said, should be made an autonomous body with elected members from four areas, namely doctors' organisations, public-private medical colleges and post-graduate medical institutes.

Dr Habib Rehman Soomro, central secretary general, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said the PMDC recently recognised around 30 medical colleges that did not adhere to the prescribed policies. He said that such colleges were producing "qualified quacks".

One secretary had "ruled" the PMDC continuously for 30 years. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested him on charges of corruption but later, he was released when he paid Rs90 million under the bargain plea, added Dr Soomro.

He claimed that the government did not allow it to function independently. He cited the example of the 'former' secretary of PMDC, a thorough honest man who refused to follow the government line and who was sent on a 'forced leave.'

He said that under the concerned rules, the election for members of the PMDC was supposed to be held within three years. But in Sindh, the polls were held after a gap of 12 years a few months ago. Dr. Habib said that when Dr. Shershah Syed got the majority votes in Sindh; the health ministry has so far not issued notification in this regard.

Dr. Kaiser Sajjad said that there was no transparency in the registration of medical colleges. He said that under the system, the PMDC is supposed to appoint an inspector who will conduct a visit of the proposed MC and pinpoint the shortcomings that can be rectified. Then, the visit will be conducted later again to see whether the requirements have been fulfilled. Subsequently, the PMDC would hold a meeting where a presentation would be given before taking the final decision but a few months ago, this practice was abolished and now a student can register at any medical college. The News



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