KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has called upon the government to make the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) an autonomous, democratic, transparent and independent body to improve medical education and produce competent doctors in the country.

At an urgent meeting held at the PMA House on Saturday, the association’s members discussed the issues related to the reconstitution of PMDC and shared concern over the situation that had developed after a related bill was approved by the Senate.

The participants were of the view that the government should stop controlling the regulatory body. The council should be formed with democratic spirit and representation should be given to all stakeholders through the electoral process.

“The members stressed upon the government to make PMDC a powerful body to regulate medical education in the country without any political interference,” the PMA said in a press release.

Improvement in healthcare delivery system urged; political intervention blamed for worsening standards of medical education

Only an independent and powerful body can raise the standards of medical education to the international standards. “The deteriorating standards of our medical education are just the result of political interference,” it added.

The meeting was presided over by Dr Hameedullah Khan and attended, among others, by Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, Dr Muhammad Shahid Shamim, Dr Syed Tipu Sultan, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, Dr Sonia Naqvi, Dr Altaf Khatri, Dr Ismail Memon, Dr Abdul Rehman and Dr Hamid Manzoor.

Addressing the meeting, held through video link, PMA secretary general Dr Ghafoor Shoro urged the government to improve the healthcare delivery system.

The PMDC Bill was passed by a joint sitting of parliament and sent to President Arif Alvi for approval. In due course, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is likely to constitute the PMDC by notification in the official gazette.

Composition of PMDC

The council will include three members from civil society to be nominated by the prime minister on the recommendations of the minister concerned, a retired high court judge or a practising lawyer with minimum experience of 15 years, the surgeon general of the armed forces medical service, secretary of National Health Services, provincial health secretaries, five licensed professionals, including one dentist, a chartered accountant, one philanthropist and an elected member from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan.

After formal assent from the president, the bill will become an act of parliament leading to disbandment of the existing Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC).

In October 2019, President Alvi had promulgated an ordinance, dissolving the PMDC to replace it with the PMC. The ordinance was converted into an act of parliament amid controversy over the appointment of Dr Nosherwan Barki, a cousin of then PM Imran Khan, as its unannounced head. Inclusion of people from outside the medical profession as PMC’s members also raised eyebrows.

On Aug 20, 2022, Prime Minister Sharif withdrew nomination of seven out of PMC’s nine members and named seven new members for appointment as members of the Medical and Dental Council and the National Medical and Dental Academic Board of PMC.

Later, a bill aimed at disbanding the PMC and restoring the PMDC was passed by parliament. However, President Alvi returned it for reconsideration.

In December, the parliament passed the bill at its joint sitting, leaving no room for the president to reject it again. The bill is now set to become an act of parliament.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2023

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