LAHORE: The Punjab government’s first structured scheme launched to treat equally two rival postgraduate programmes — Doctor of Medicine (MD)/Master of Surgery (MS)/Master of Dental Surgery and Fellow of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (FCPS) — suffered a setback when the health department allocated 69 seats for the FCPS holders and only nine for those with MD/MS qualifications.
The residency programme had been introduced in July 2016 with the sole purpose of providing equal opportunity (allocation of 50 per cent seats each) to the MD/MS and FCPS students. The specialised healthcare and medical education secretary had given three months to all institutions to get their programmes approved by the universities, but the institutions ignored the call.
As per an advertisement, 78 seats were allocated to 13 public sector medical and teaching institutions for induction to the Level-IV programmes in various super specialties.
No seat was allocated for induction to 2nd Fellowship (Level-IV) for the MS/MD medics in nine out of the 13 government sector institutions in Punjab. The institutions included Fatima Jinnah Medical University Lahore, Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore, Rawalpindi Medical University, Nishtar Medical University Multan, Institute of Child Health Multan, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi Institute of Cardiology Multan, Punjab Institute of Cardiology Lahore and Faisalabad Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology.
In the four other institutions, 19 seats were allocated for induction to the super specialty programmes in King Edward Medical University, including 14 for FCPS and only five for the MD/MS doctors.
Out of the 14 seats in Institute of Child Health Lahore, 12 were allocated for FCPS and only two for the MS/MD doctors. The situation was similar in Services Hospital where out of the five seats, four were allocated to the FCPS and only one for MS/MD doctors.
In Postgraduate Medical Institute/Lahore General Hospital, two seats were allocated for FCPS and one for MS/MD doctors. The last date for submission of applications for all candidates was Sept 24.
According to the regulations of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (now Pakistan Medical Council), both rival programmes — FCPS and MD/MS — were equally Level-III qualifications.
In an apparent clash of interests, most public sector universities and colleges have not got their institutions recognised to run the MD/MS programmes in order to retain monopoly over the FCPS qualification, an official privy to the information told Dawn.
He said one of the major reasons was that most government institutions in Punjab were headed by those possessing FCPS diplomas and were reportedly victimising students willing to enrol in MD/MS programmes. Another drawback of this development was that the specialised healthcare department had given three months to the government institutions to get their departments recognised for MD/MS. However, the official said, vice chancellors, principals and heads of institutions deliberately violated these orders.
Ignoring the concerns of the MD/MS students, the specialised healthcare department has largely played the role of a silent spectator as it has neither taken notice of the violation of its order nor held any inquiry to fix responsibility against heads of the institutions responsible.
It was yet to be investigated as to how an advertisement was published and by whom in violation of the Punjab Residency Programme policy, the official said.
He further said the situation was disturbing in KEMU where the supposed victimisation towards MD/MS doctors was more evident than in other public sector institutions. The varsity management has barred the candidates with MD/MS qualifications to apply against the seats reserved for their FCPS colleagues for induction to Level-IV programmes as advertised.
On the other hand, the FCPS candidates have been allowed to apply against the seats reserved for the MD/MS medics for the same purpose besides those advertised for them.
In a related development, the Lahore High Court had recently taken notice of the reservations of MD/MS candidates when they filed a writ petition against the ‘injustice’ meted out to them by the heads of government teaching institutions. “If impugned advertisement issued by the health secretary was not declared null and void lopsided, discriminatory based and of no legal effect, the petitioners shall suffer an irreparable loss,” read the petition.
The petitioner also mentioned the “unlawful” act of the health department while giving weightage to the FCPS candidates by violating the seat distribution criteria.
The court had on Oct 9 referred the matter to the health department for an impartial decision in order to address the grievance of the petitioners. According to the judgement, the petitioner’s grievance was that the candidates having Level-III degrees from public sector universities could not apply although their academic qualification was equivalent to MPhil and college diploma.
The LHC disposed of the petition directing that the needful be done within three weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of the order.
Reportedly, many institutions have shortlisted the candidates and a formal announcement was expected on Monday (tomorrow) regarding almost all those having the FCPS qualification being inducted.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020