KARACHI, March 16: The Jinnah Sindh Medical University law is flawed and will jeopardise the future of hundreds of students enrolled at the Sindh Medical College (SMC), said experts on Saturday.
The legal document shows that no teaching hospital has been affiliated with the university where medical college students could take clinical training, a mandatory requirement to run a medical training institution under the Pakistan Medical Dental Council (PMDC) rules.
The JSMU Act 2013, passed by the Sindh Assembly recently, shows the medical college as the only constituent institution of the university despite the fact that the college itself was upgraded last year through an ordinance to set up a university.
This is a major shift in government position as the Sindh medical university ordinance states: “The Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) shall be the affiliated hospitals of the university.”
The measure, experts said, seemed to have been taken to allay concerns of the faculties who had challenged the hospitals’ devolution in court.
The government, they said, had also ignored the demand of medical experts who wanted the removal of controversial clauses in the ordinance and an autonomous status for the university.
A clause in the act (which was not included in the ordinance) states: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (1) and other provisions of this act, the allocation of seats for admissions in the university and its constituent colleges and constituent institutes shall be made by the government (chief minister), in order to provide equal opportunity of admissions to all the students of the province.”
The act, among other things, retains ordinance clauses on the role of the Sindh government. For instance, its consent is either required or it is the sole authority to make key appointments, including that of registrar, finance director, resident auditor, director for planning and development.
The relevant syndicate makes most appointments in public sector universities through a selection board under their respective acts.
“We are extremely disappointed to see the bill. Instead of making the university autonomous and removing controversial clauses, the government has put the future of hundreds of students at risk,” said Dr Shahid Sami, president of the Sindh Medical University Alumni Association and Trustees.
Referring to institutions such as the Dow University of Health Sciences and Karachi University, Dr Sami said those universities were autonomous in a way that apart from a few appointments made by the chancellor, most appointments were made by the institution itself through a selection board and with the approval of the university’s syndicate.“But this is not the case here. Second, the medical college is now without a teaching hospital. This could provoke a stern action from the PMDC which could cancel the college’s registration and de-regularise it,” he said.
“If students of DUHS could take clinical training at a hospital (Civil Hospital Karachi) under the provincial government then why the same couldn’t be done in the SMC students’ case?” he remarked.
Recalling how SMC students started taking clinical training at the JPMC and NICVD, Dr Aziz Khan Tank, a senior member of the Pakistan Medical Association and secretary-general of the College of Family Medicine, said the college came into existence in 1973 following a PMA campaign for a new medical college.
“At that time, the Dow Medical College was the only institution for medical training in the city. It had only 100 seats which were not enough to meet Karachi’s growing needs. Besides, a large number of talented students were being deprived of their right to medical education,” he said.
According to Dr Tank, it was due to PMA efforts that the then government was forced to set up a committee to establish a new medical college.
The committee comprised eminent experts, including the then JPMC director the late Dr B.A. Qureshi, Prof S.M.Rab and Prof Ashfaq Ahmed. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the JPMC and NICVD according to which the medical experts at those institutions would volunteer clinical training to SMC students.
“Since then, students have been getting training at these institutions without any hitch and we would like this old association to continue. Unfortunately, there have been some conflicts among our colleagues after the devolution as they wanted to retain the institutions’ federal status. But now the important issue is the students’ future as medical college couldn’t operate without a teaching hospital,” said Dr Qaiser Sajjad, another alumni association member.
He argued that there were no proper teaching/training facilities for medical students at any other Sindh government hospital and it would be unfair to the SMC students, mostly girls, as was the case in other medical colleges, to send them to a teaching hospital located far away from the college in the present law and order situation.
Highlighting concerns of the joint action committee which launched a campaign against the devolution of the JPMC, NICVD and NICH, a senior professor at the JPMC said that the government itself was doing a great injustice to the students.
“The mess has been created to appease only one person who happens to be the president’s physician. The SMC was working well under the DUHS and shouldn’t have been made a university. Now, when they have done that, they should affiliate it with a government hospital,” he said.
“Our plea is pending in court. Our demand is that the JPMC be declared a federal medical university as it was approved so by the Higher Education Commission. The past two governments had also approved its status of a university.”