KARACHI: Describing the government’s move of dissolving the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) as the “worst action in the council’s history”, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) at a presser held on Thursday demanded immediate withdrawal of the “controversial Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Ordinance 2019”, reinstatement of all PMDC employees and restoration of PMDC as an independent and transparent body.

They also called upon the government to follow the PMDC Ordinance 1962 and hold elections within 90 days.

The press conference addressed by senior PMA members including past and present presidents of the association was organised at PMA House.

Says vested interest groups to benefit from dissolution of PMDC

The doctors expressed their disappointment at the government and said the newly formed PMC, which replaces PMDC, should be described as the “Prime Minister’s Medical Commission” as all its nine members would be nominated by the PM himself.

The new ordinance, they said, had been brought to provide greater autonomy to private medical colleges as it allowed them to fix their tuition fees and other charges, select a university of their own choice for affiliation and set their own criteria for hiring faculty.

The dissolution of the PMDC, they said, would also affect the credibility of Pakistani doctors working abroad and those working within the country with PMDC certifications.

“This is grave injustice. This is deceit and end of merit. The council had been hijacked many times in the past by vested interests but the council itself was never disbanded with a stroke of pen by any government,” said Dr S. Tipu Sultan, past president of PMA-Centre, at the press conference.

He questioned the wide-ranging powers being given to private medical and dental colleges and formation of three bodies with members, all to be nominated by the government, to perform functions earlier carried out by the council.

Responding to a question, he said the whole system of medical education had become a multi-million dollar business involving influential doctors, bureaucrats, landlords and the establishment.

“It has become a money-making business over the years. We have seen a mushroomed growth of private medical colleges and universities across the country in the past decade in complete disregard to standards of quality medical education.

“Seats on merit have been drastically reduced and replaced with sponsored seats in medical colleges,” he explained.

The doctors questioned the government strategy of bypassing parliament and said it should have taken all stakeholders on board.

The hasty move strongly suggested that the government was supporting vested interest groups, they alleged.

Citing clauses from the controversial new ordinance, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the PMA-Centre, said under the new regulation medical colleges would be controlled by their respective universities which, he said, would cause a conflict of interest because universities received funding from colleges and, in many cases, universities own these colleges.

“According to the ordinance, students who pass their MBBS or BDS exam will have to pass another exam, the National Licensing Exam (Exit Exam), to start their house job.

“This shows that you don’t have trust in your medical education system even through this new ordinance. The other problem with this decision would be a mushroom growth of coaching centres in the country in the name of preparing students for Exit Exams,” he said.

He also termed the ordinance as “ambiguous”, while referring to Clause 2 (a) of Section 9 and reasoned how could the council appoint members of the commission as Section 4-1 stated that nine members would be nominated by the prime minister.

Dr Sajjad also criticised another recently promulgated ordinance, Medical Tribunal Ordinance 2019, meant to take up cases against health providers and said it would be another “selected body” as its four members would be nominated by the prime minister.

Replying to a question, he said the PMA had been in contact with President Dr Arif Alvi and Health Minister Zafar Mirza over the issues plaguing medical education and doctors but they both appeared helpless.

“The PMA is taking political leaders on board and also preparing to file a case on this,” he said, adding that everybody knew who were behind these ordinances.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2019