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KARACHI, July 30: The Sindh Health Department is contemplating to replace the existing open merit admission policy with reserved seats for girls at dental and medical colleges in the province, countering shortage of medical and dental practitioners in healthcare facilities scattered across the province.

This was stated by Prof Naushad Shaikh, Sindh health secretary, speaking at a session on `Oral Health-Care Delivery and Education’ organized by a local publication here on Saturday.

“A proposal is being forwarded to review the current admission policy based on open merit as we are experiencing shortage of medical as well as dental practitioners in government health care facilities,” he said.

Prof Naushad Shaikh attributed the scenario to the fact that while girls were by-passing boys in getting admission at professional colleges on the basis of merit, a significant majority of them were unable to pursue their professional career due to parallel domestic responsibilities.

Elaborating, he said there were 1,500 posts lying vacant at the Rural Health Centres and Basic Health Units, including 1,100 positions in BPS -17.

This was said to be complimented by a scenario where almost 50 per cent of girl medical/dental undergraduates discontinued studies while another 20 per cent could not join the workforce because of other priorities and also inhibitions to work in odd hours, or be posted in remote areas and so forth.

In this regard, he mentioned that there were also more than 54 posts for dental surgeons lying vacant.

Senior health professionals and educationists, including president of the Asia-Pacific Dental Federation, Dr Arif Alvi; the Dean of Dentistry, Liaquat University of Health Sciences, Dr Rafique Memon; Principal of the Liaquat Memorial Dental College Dr Naveed Rasheed, Vice Chancellor of the Baqai University of Health Sciences, present on the occasion, took strong exception to the proposition.

Reminding the audience that a surge in the number of women professionals in the healthcare sector was a worldwide phenomenon, they suggested urgent need for resorting to a split working hours approach to help women to carry out their professional responsibilities.

A competent workforce could not be enumerated in terms of figures but their working hours had to be taken into the consideration, they said mentioning that a large majority of women workers after a certain phase of time did serve to their optimum capacities.

Dr Arif Alvi, with specific reference to dental health care, said with only a nominal number of our people having easy access to qualified dental professionals, we needed to adopt a pragmatic approach and a long-term planning.

Dr Abbas Naqvi, the moderator of the programme, mentioned that dentist:population ratio came to 1:75,000.

There were said to be 1,052 qualified men dental professionals (BDS) and 1,277 women in Sindh, while men superseded in the cadre to specialists with 75 men and 21 women.This was said to be in a situation when less than 20 per cent of these professionals actually translated their skill and qualifications into practice.

The others who spoke at the programme included the director-general, of the Sindh Health Department, Dr Hadi Bux Jatoi, EDO of Health Karachi Dr Khalid Shaikh, DG of Health (Dental) Dr Ghulam Ali Shaikh, Dr Altamash and Dr Faisal Aqeel.—APP