IN a peculiar move, a presidential ordinance last year dissolved the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council — and matters only got stranger from that point on. The abrupt announcement came after an earlier attempt to pass the PMDC Ordinance 2019 failed in the Senate, due to resistance from the opposition parties. Later, in a television interview, the former PMDC registrar narrated how he got a call in the evening last October from health ministry officials, telling him they had ‘taken over’ the body, and all employees were to go on a week’s leave. However, when the 200-plus permanent and contractual workers studied the ordinance, they learnt that they had been fired from their jobs. Police constables barged in and seized the building — “as if it were a coup”, the former registrar noted in the interview — while officials from the National Health Services sealed the premises. And then, a new authority was formed, called the Pakistan Medical Commission, with the stated aim of modernising the medical education curriculum. The PMDC workers filed a petition, and in February, the Islamabad High Court declared the ordinance null and void, called the PMC illegal, and demanded that all dismissed employees be reinstated. And so, on March 31, the NHS de-sealed the PMDC building.
Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, however, the government is yet to restore the original body. The PMDC was not only responsible for upholding the registration of doctors and dentists, it also oversaw the standard of education in medical schools. The confusion of recent events has caused uncertainty for the future of thousands of students. In a recent report in this paper, health practitioners expressed their dismay at the present state of affairs, which they said was unnecessarily complicating the war against the coronavirus epidemic. To make matters worse, doctors in Quetta yesterday clashed with police over the non-availability of personal protective equipment. When will the government note that the health sector is ailing?
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020