THE controversy surrounding the arbitrary dissolution of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council appears to be far from over. In the latest twist, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services sealed the Pakistan Medical Commission (until recently the PMDC) building in Islamabad and barred its employees from entering the premises under a “cease and desist” order. According to reports, the NHS spokesperson said that this step was being taken in light of the recently passed PMC Act by parliament. He said that Clause 28 calls for the setting up of a council that will decide what duties to assign to the concerned officials. This move by the federal government is the second such attack within a short span of time. In October 2019, the PMDC was dissolved by the government through an overnight ordinance and replaced with the PMC. PMDC employees had moved the court against this decision, leading the Islamabad High Court in February to restore the PMDC and declare the PMC illegal. In a separate case, the Supreme Court in August 2020 issued orders for the setting up of an 11-member ad hoc committee to manage the PMDC. Very recently, the PMC bill was pushed through a joint sitting of parliament without due deliberation by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on National Health Services, and signed into law, thus increasing concerns that the removal of checks on private medical colleges would encourage commercial motives.
Even if the government’s intentions in reforming the regulation of medical colleges were sincere, its arrogant way of handling the situation has invited suspicion over the actual reason behind such drastic changes to the regulatory medical body. One wonders whether the fifth-largest population of the world, with a dilapidated and overstretched healthcare system, needs such a controversy in the midst of a global pandemic. The country’s healthcare workers, many of whom come from humble backgrounds, are already working in compromised conditions. They don’t deserve to be made to question their life choices for the benefit of a few.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020