Withdrawal of recognition to MS/MD programme: Punjab to approach Saudi govt through diplomatic channel

Updated August 10, 2019

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The meeting decided to write officially to the Saudi government to revisit its decision of excluding Pakistan’s MS/MD programme from the list of high paid tier. — AFP/File
The meeting decided to write officially to the Saudi government to revisit its decision of excluding Pakistan’s MS/MD programme from the list of high paid tier. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab health department has decided to take up with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the matter of withdrawing recognition to Pakistan’s postgraduate university programme in medical education – MS and MD – through the diplomatic channel.

The decision was taken in a high-level meeting chaired by Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Momin Ali Agha at the health secretariat here on Friday. It was also attended by three vice chancellors of medical universities -- Prof Javed Akram from University of Health Sciences, Prof Khalid Masood Gondal from King Edward Medical University, Prof Aamer Zeman Khan from Fatima Jinnnah Medical University-- Chief Executive of the Mayo Hospital Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan and special secretary health Mian Shakeel Ahmad.

The meeting decided to write officially to the Saudi government to revisit its decision of excluding Pakistan’s MS/MD programme from the list of high paid tier.

The health secretary expressed his utter displeasure over reports that some CPSP office-bearers, in a bid to promote FCPS, had convinced KSA health officials that MD/MS lacked structured training programme.

“We are going to take up the matter at the diplomatic level and will write to the Saudi government to revisit its decision of excluding our century-old university qualification programme from its regulations,” says Momin Ali Agha.

Talking to Dawn, he said during the meeting it transpired that the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS) had delisted the MS/MD from its 2018 regulations on the ground that it lacked structured training. Consequently, several Pakistani medics lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, he said.

“Apparently, it seems the KSA and other Arab countries have done so owing to some misunderstanding about Pakistan’s superior university degree programme. We have also decided to hold a conference over the issue in Lahore and intend to invite SCFHS secretary general Prof Dr Abdo to brief him about our degree qualification”, says Mr Agha.

A delegation from Punjab’s leading medical universities would also visit Saudi Arabia after Eidul Azha to defend Pakistan’s medical university qualification by holding meetings with the Saudi health ministry and SCFHS senior officials, he said.

In a related development, some other countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, have also raised questions on the Pakistani MS/MD qualification.

“Our Pakistani medical teachers who had supervised and trained the MS/MD medics of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal in our government institutions are also facing similar nature issues,” says retired principal of Fatima Jinnah Medical College Prof Abdul Majeed Chaudhry.

He said the officials concerned from the above-mentioned countries were contacting the Pakistani supervisors for clarity about MS/MD degree qualification to know whether its was a structured training programme or not.

Prof Chaudhry declared it a very disturbing development saying that he had also supervised several foreign students at the KEMU and FJMU who were said to be perturbed over this matter.

“If our prestigious degree programme is also delisted by these countries like Arabs, it would be a great setback for Pakistan”, Prof Majeed regretted. He urged the prime minister to take up the matter urgently in the best interest of Pakistani medics and the country.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has expressed its utter displeasure over the sacking of Pakistan medics by Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries.

The PMA has asked the government of Pakistan and federal health ministry to chalk out a comprehensive strategy and talk to the government of Saudi Arabia to reinstate all the sacked doctors.

The demand was made at a meeting of the PMA (Centre) called on Friday to discuss the issue.

Senior members including Dr S.Tipu Sultan, Dr S.M.Qaisar Sajjad, Dr Qazi M Wasiq, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, Dr Khalil Mukaddam, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, Dr Sarwar Jamil and Dr Hamid Manzoor attended the meeting.

The meeting expressed its deep concern over the news that Pakistani doctors with MS/MD degrees have been sacked in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“It is beyond doubt that Pakistan’s university degree qualification is a structured training programme”, says a spokesperson for the PMA.

He said the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) regulations have declared it a five-year level-III research and clinical qualification.

Its curriculum is based on both clinical and research components as per international standards. Moreover, it has a long history of imparting medical education, the spokesperson said.

During the meeting, the PMA announced that it stands with the doctors who have been removed. “We believe that there is always a need to pace with modern teaching and training skills and if we lack in any way that can be improved, it should be improved”, says the PMA spokesperson.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019