LAHORE: Declaring the MPhil Pathology an academic qualification, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has ‘deregistered’ this major degree programme “as clinical qualification”, creating a controversy and concern among hundreds of qualified pathologists in public and private sectors all over the country.

In its recent meeting, the PMC reviewed the curriculum being followed by the MPhil pathology in various universities and decided that the qualification may be categorised as academic.

“It was, therefore, decided that MPhil pathology will not be entered in the licence keeping in view that only clinical qualifications will be registered as postgraduate, additional and alternative qualifications”, read the minutes of the PMC meeting.

Following this decision, hundreds of MPhil pathologists/specialists/consultants working in private and public sector labs will not be entitled to issue lab reports with their signatures.

Pathologists resent PMC decision as they can’t issue lab reports with their signatures

This [policy] decision of deregistering MPhil pathology in various disciplines (histopathology, hematology, chemical pathology & microbiology) has caused serious concerns amongst young, mid-career and veteran MPhil pathologists who comprised more than 70 per cent of pathologists working in government and private sector hospitals and labs.

The University of Health Sciences (UHS) was the first institution [in Punjab] which strongly objected to the ‘controversial decision’ of the PMC.

In an official letter, UHS Vice Chancellor Prof Javed Akram has asked the PMC president to review its decision in the best interest of the qualified pathologists saying that the degree holders of this programme were directly related to patients.

Similarly, the PMC also faced a strong reaction from the MPhil pathology degree holders from all over the country.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the in-question degree holders also met the PMC authorities to show their reservations on the council’s decision.

In the official correspondence of the UHS and the MPhil pathologists with the PMC, they lamented that the decision was implemented retrospectively, which caused concern among [practicing] MPhil pathologists.

They said no policy internationally or nationally is ever implemented retrospectively without taking into account its consequences.

“All MPhil pathology qualifications previously registered with PMDC, approved by the federal ministry of health, are not pure academic qualifications like those offered by non-medical universities,” said an official while quoting a written complaint to the PMC president.

A copy of UHS letter and the complaint [of pathologists] was also available with Dawn.

He said MPhil in different subspecialties of pathology was the oldest postgraduate medical qualification and was being offered by prestigious medical institutes.

The MPhil trained pathologists/specialists from [recognised] training institutes were considered all over the country the backbone of diagnostic pathological services.

“These MPhil pathologists were eligible to be recruited as consultant pathologists (BS-18) and assistant professors of pathology (BS-18) by the public service commissions, the provincial and federal governments where this postgraduate medical qualification was referred to as MPhil (Pak)”, he said.

In case MPhil pathology [medical qualification] was not added to the PMC licence there will be predicament in ongoing jobs and fresh recruitments.

He said most posts of consultant pathologist (BS-18) were still vacant in all 36 districts of Punjab due to an acute shortage of pathologists where hospital lab services were already badly affected.

He said the Punjab Healthcare Commission also required a registered medical practitioner with a recognised MPhil pathology (in any branch) to run a category C & B lab.

“As PMC is eliminating these qualifications from their database by not re-registering the licences, this may result in confusion in the registration process of pathology laboratories,” the official said.

As a consequence, the pathology lab services would suffer a blow, he said adding that the decision reflects obvious discrimination against MPhil pathology as the PMC was registering the diplomas like DCP and FCPS in pathology (histopathology, hematology, chemical pathology and microbiology).

“The MPhil pathology qualification is a superior one than (diploma in clinical pathology) DCP,” he said adding that the MPhil pathology holders are supervisors, trainers and examiners of the DCP.

The UHS and the pathology degree holders in their respective letters have asked the PMC president to review the council’s decision and recongnise the postgraduate qualifications in pathology in the PMC licence without any delay and discrimination.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2021

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