New ordinance gives unlimited autonomy to private medical colleges

Updated October 22, 2019

Email

Under the new ordinance, rather than following directives of the newly formed Pakistan Medical Commission, private medical and dental colleges will now be able to appoint faculty members on the directions of universities they are affiliated with. — AFP/File
Under the new ordinance, rather than following directives of the newly formed Pakistan Medical Commission, private medical and dental colleges will now be able to appoint faculty members on the directions of universities they are affiliated with. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: With the promulgation of the ‘Pakistan Medical Commission Ordinance, 2019’ unlimited autonomy has been given to private medical and dental colleges as they will now be able to charge fees of their choice.

These colleges have been allowed to give marks or points for additional tests such as interview of students. Rather than following directives of the newly formed Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), they will now be able to appoint faculty members on the directions of universities they are affiliated with.

Moreover, the ordinance will allow strict action against those doctors who have been protesting against the Medical Teaching Institution’s move for privatisation of public hospitals.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Senator Javed Abbasi, while terming the ordinance a fraud with the constitution, announced that he would file a resolution in the house for its disapproval. He claimed the promulgation of this ordinance was in violation of some Supreme Court’s orders.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, however, said that the new ordinance was the need of the hour and it would address all issues related to medical education.

PML-N terms govt’s move a fraud with constitution

President Dr Arif Alvi has promulgated the ordinance which has left the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) dissolved and paved the way for establishment of the new organisation, PMC. On Sunday, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) sealed the PMDC building.

Services of the registrar and around 220 other employees of the PMDC have been terminated.

According to a copy of the ordinance, available with Dawn, the aim of the ordinance is to improve the standard of medical education in the country.

Section 19 of the ordinance states that all candidates will have to clear the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) to get admission in medical or dental colleges and only a single admission test would be held across the country.

After March 2020, students after clearing the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) will have to clear the National licensing Exam (NLE) to start practice. Earlier that requirement was only for foreign graduates.

Sub-Section 3 of Section 19 states that admission to medical or dental programmes conducted by public colleges would be regulated as per the policy of provincial governments. However, admission to a private college would be in accordance with the criteria and requirements stipulated by the private college at least one year in advance of the admission, including any additional entrance test as may be conducted by a private college subject to any condition imposed by the relevant university to which the college is affiliated:

It states that the major controlling authority of the college will be the university with which it is affiliated.

This decision may cause a conflict of interest as universities get the funding from colleges and in a number of cases universities own these colleges.

Document shows that that a university would decide about the number of faculty members in a college.

Earlier, the PMDC used to push colleges to have a certain number of faculty members. Moreover, in case of any violation of rules, the university would take action against the college. Here again arises conflict of interest.

According to Sub-Section 7 of Section 20, medical colleges can decide about the fee, but they would have to mention about it in the advertisement, which should be given three months prior to admission.

Senator Abbasi, while talking to Dawn, said that there was a judgement of the Supreme Court which says that there would be no legal justification of the ordinance if the Senate and the National Assembly disapproved it.

“A few months back, the upper house had disapproved the former ordinance of the PMDC, but the government has once again promulgated an ordinance.”

He said government’s representatives had invited him in a meeting and sought support of the opposition for a bill in this regard. “I told them that they should table a bill so that input of all stakeholders could be included in it.” But, the government had promulgated the ordinance.

Senator Abbasi said he had decided to move a resolution in the house for disapproval of the ordinance. He alleged that the ordinance had been promulgated to please a person who was very close to the prime minister.

PML-N spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb also criticised the promulgation of the ordinance and said that her party had rejected it.

Dr Zafar Mirza, while talking to media persons on Monday, said that there were around 10 colleges when the PMDC ordinance was promulgated in 1962.

“There are now over 150 medical colleges in the country and a proper mechanism is required to ensure their smooth functioning. The new ordinance would address all the issues related to medial fraternity and colleges,” he said.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association, Lahore, Dr Shahid Malik, alleged that the ordinance would destroy medical institutions of the country. “Decision to dissolve the PMDC is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that rather than creating new institutions the current government is destroying existing institutions.” The PMDC was an internationally recognised organisation, he said, adding with its dissolution degrees of Pakistani doctors would become doubtful.

Also on Monday, the PMDC employees held a protest sit-in outside the council building, demanding the government to withdraw the orders of termination of their services.

The ordinance discusses a golden handshake scheme for the PMDC employees. According to it services of all PMDC employees would be terminated, except those working in grades 1-4. Six-month basic salary would be paid to them as additional amount and other dues would be cleared after an audit.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019