Around 7,000 JSMU students’ future at stake after apex court’s verdict

Updated January 20, 2019

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THE Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre serves as JSMU’s teaching hospital.—White Star
THE Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre serves as JSMU’s teaching hospital.—White Star

KARACHI: The future of thousands of students of Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) is at stake following a decision of the Supreme Court regarding handing over the control of Karachi’s three major hospitals to the federal government, it emerged on Saturday.

The verdict had come on a Sindh government appeal filed against a 2016 decision of the Sindh High Court, which had declared the transfer of the three hospitals — the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) — to the province unconstitutional.

All three facilities serve as teaching hospitals for about 7,000 JSMU students.

According to sources, the court has provided a transition period of 90 days after which JSMU would lose its entire faculty that would revert to the federal government.

This situation, they said, might result in derecognition of JSMU by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) as its rules make it mandatory that a medical university/college should have its own faculty and a teaching hospital.

A teacher says JPMC, NICVD and NICH should continue to serve as teaching hospitals for JSMU students

“In order to save students’ future, it’s important that either the court in its detailed judgement or the federal government declares that these healthcare facilities would continue to serve as teaching hospitals for JSMU students,” a senior JSMU teacher told Dawn on the condition of anonymity.

He cited the case of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University which got derecognised last year by the PMDC when its faculty was transferred back to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

Expressing similar apprehensions, students at JSMU said rumours of derecognition by the PMDC were rife on the campus following the apex court’s decision and have become a source of concern.

“Our future is at stake. We urge the court and the government to make an announcement in this regard so that students could pursue their education with a peaceful mind,” said Fatima Zehra, a JSMU student.

Upon contact, JSMU Vice Chancellor Prof Tariq Rafi said that he attended a recent hearing and shared his concerns with the chief justice.

“He assured me that the Supreme Court would protect university’s status and students’ future. But, unfortunately, there is no mention of this promise in the short order released on Jan 16,” he said, warning that the medical university would be destroyed if the court or the government did not protect its status.

The institution, he pointed out, had grew tremendously over the past six years and had opened four new institutes — the Institute of Public Health, Institute of Pharmacy, Institute of Health and Business Management and Social Sciences and Sindh Institute of Oral Health Sciences.

“Right now, it’s the largest medical university in Sindh catering to the educational and training needs of 70 per cent of Karachi’s medical students.

“In 2015, the provincial government asked all private medical and dental colleges to get affiliated with JSMU as Karachi University was derecognised by the PMDC. This led to a marked increase in university’s enrolment,” he explained.

The JPMC, NICVD and NICH have always been affiliated as teaching hospitals of the Sindh Medical College (SMC) since its inception in 1973. At that time, the JPMC was under the federal government and SMC under the provincial government.

The JPMC and NICH were devolved to Sindh in 2011 as a result of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and later declared as teaching hospitals of the SMC, which was upgraded as a medical university (JSMU) in 2012.

The employees of JPMC, NICH and NICVD had approached the SHC against devolution in 2011. The court granted a stay order with directives that “the facilities of training which have been provided in these institutions to students will not be disrupted or modified to the detriment of students till next date”.

The JSMU and SMC, however, got derecognised by the PMDC on grounds that their clinical faculties were not on their payroll. The university approached the high court which granted a stay order and directed the Sindh government to address the issue.

The matter was resolved and the university got PMDC’s recognition after the government allowed the university to advertise clinical vacant posts at the JPMC and NICH and hire faculty, earlier on JPMC payroll.

In 2016, the case was finally heard and the SHC gave its decision to transfer these three hospitals to the federal government. The Sindh government filed an appeal against the decision and a stay was granted with specific directives that “the order shall not affect functioning of the Jinnah Sindh Medical University”. The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Jan 16, 2019.

The operating part of the order was read out by then Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar during the hearing of a separate case, simply dismissing the appeals. The reasons behind the decision will be recorded in a detailed judgement later.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2019