Technical body head for probe into sacking of medics by Gulf states

Updated September 18, 2019

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Head of a technical committee constituted by the Punjab government to identify factors which led to sacking of hundreds of MS/MD Pakistani doctors by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, has strongly recommended “unbiased and transparent inquiry[into the matter] to fix in-service employees behind this conspiracy”. — AFP/File
Head of a technical committee constituted by the Punjab government to identify factors which led to sacking of hundreds of MS/MD Pakistani doctors by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, has strongly recommended “unbiased and transparent inquiry[into the matter] to fix in-service employees behind this conspiracy”. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Head of a technical committee constituted by the Punjab government to identify factors which led to sacking of hundreds of MS/MD Pakistani doctors by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, has strongly recommended “unbiased and transparent inquiry[into the matter] to fix in-service employees behind this conspiracy”.

Former vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences Lahore Prof Dr Mahmood Shaukat wrote a ‘personal note’ to the higher authorities, saying that some important decisions were imperative to secure future of medical education in Pakistan.

He also criticised the policy of “putting issues under the carpet”, saying this habit was encouraging some government employees busy in negative activities, resulting in irreparable loss to the local postgraduate qualification internationally.

Prof Shaukat was appointed convener of the ‘technical committee’ notified by the Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department Punjab August last after Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states had rejected postgraduate qualification of Pakistan, rendering hundreds of its doctors working abroad jobless. Others on the committee are: Dean of Children Hospital Lahore Prof Dr Masud Sadiq, Allama Iqbal Medical College Principal Prof Dr Arif Tajamal and health Deputy Secretary Dr Nasir Mahmood Shakir.

The century-old local postgraduate degree programme rejected by these countries included MS (Master of Surgery) and MD (Doctor of Medicine). The rejection sent a wave of shock and resentment to the medical fraternity in Pakistan and abroad, besides bringing a bad name to the country.

Some of the affected doctors and senior health officials in Pakistan had blamed the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) for “damaging their career” abroad, accusing a CPSP delegation of defaming its rival postgraduate qualification – MD/Ms — to retain monopoly of the FCPS in medical education.

The federal and provincial governments also faced criticism when several doctors were sent packing by Gulf states authorities while many others faced sackings. Sadly, the Pakistani authorities did nothing to rescue these medics.

However, the Punjab government took the initiative by constituting a technical committee to assess the situation and make public the factors behind Pakistan’s medical degree programme rejection by the Gulf countries.

The terms of references (TORs) of the committee included comparing the postgraduate qualification offered by the public sector medical universities of the country and the FCPS run by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) in terms of professional development and career structuring.

Convener of the committee Prof Shaukat raised very pertinent questions regarding the injustice done to the Pakistani doctors working in Gulf countries in his ‘personal note’, besides sending a detailed report of the committee to the higher authorities.

In the note, he dispatched along with the committee’s findings, Prof Shaukat suggested that the government employees who played a negative role resulting in the rejection of local degree programme must be grilled and handed down exemplary punishment.

“I have not made any opinion as to the allegations in this case, but feel that the matter should be taken to its logical conclusion by holding an unbiased transparent inquiry,” reads the letter of Prof Shaukat.

He suggested if any irresponsible behavior was found on part of any Punjab government employee in the matter, a strict disciplinary action should be taken.

“In this particular case it is unimaginable that a person working as head of a government institution is found working against the [same] institution after having applied for that post by choice,” the letter reads.

The committee convener said if the allegations were even partially true, the government needed to learn a lesson, avoiding placement of people in positions of authority with a “clear conflict of interest”.

He suggested if any professional wish to work for another organisation, he or she should be permitted to proceed on deputation.

This, he said, would help reduce tussle between different rival institutions (CPSP and medical universities) and provide a more conducive professional environment for training, with a healthy competition, rather than leg-pulling and attempts to tarnish the image of others and the country.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019