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LAHORE: With the Punjab government ‘almost abandoning the proposal’ to centralise the medical & dental colleges’ admission process, the private medical colleges are all set to start admissions on ‘donation & gift basis’ as per their previous arrangements.

There are about 51 private medical and dental colleges in Punjab. The total number of annual MBBS and BDS seats allocated for them are 5,200, according to an official privy to the development.

He says that in absence of the centralised admission policy, the ‘donation’ for each admission is likely to cross limit of Rs5m in addition to the regular annual fee that varies from Rs0.9m to Rs1.5m. The Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) has fixed Rs0.6m for each admission to private colleges all over the country.

Last year, the official says, the PMDC had introduced a new regulation for admission to private medical and dental colleges for 2016-17 wherein the provinces had to regulate admissions to these colleges under a uniform policy.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had announced that Punjab would be the first province to implement the new policy. For this purpose, the government, through an advertisement in the national media, had trumpeted much about the University of Health Sciences (UHS) conducting admissions of both public and private medical colleges under a uniform policy as per the PMDC regulations. Nearly 7,000 students from private sector had applied to the UHS which prepared a merit list for 2016-17 admissions. However, it did not display the list for reasons best known to the health authorities.

After complaints about the Punjab government’s failure to regulate the private medical colleges, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sought a report from the health authorities. A meeting to this effect has been called this week where Health Secretary Najam Shah will present the report to the chief minister.

The total number of allocated seats for 20 government medical and dental colleges in Punjab is 3,600 which is less than those of private colleges (5,200).

Talking about the ‘modus operandi’ of the private medical colleges of ‘fleecing’ the students and their parents, the official refers to exorbitant fees that they charge under various heads. Like, they reserve seats in the name of their respective boards of governors and martyred doctors and later, they ‘sell’ the same seats to the students who pay ‘donations or gifts’ in addition to the regular fee structure, the official says. They also charge extra money from students for admissions under various other heads like classroom charges, library and mosque.

The official says that most medical colleges don’t display merit list and they inform the students about their admissions by phone calls. Resultantly, the deserving merit students are either dropped or forced to join other professions.

Health Secretary Najam Shah defends his department’s position, saying that in response to the chief minister’s meeting, many brainstorming sessions have been conducted during last three days or so to devise a policy to regulate the private medical colleges. He claims that some former principals of the medical colleges and vice chancellors of the universities are also being consulted and a number of proposals are under consideration.

Representing, private medical and dental colleges in Punjab, the principal of the Lahore Medical & Dental College, Prof Abdul Majeed Chaudhry, told Dawn the policy should be across the board in the whole country.

“Punjab is not Pakistan. Fee structure should be implemented genuinely across the board in whole of the country,” he says.

Prof Chaudhry claims that the fee structure for admission to private medical and dental colleges in Pakistan is the lowest in the whole South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) region.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017