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LAHORE, April 23: The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council has locked horns with the Higher Education Commission over sending students to Cuba for pursuing medical education (MBBS).

The controversy may trigger the recognition issue for those returning home with medical education credentials from Cuba.

The PMDC claims that the HEC had sent a good number of students to Cuba without taking it into confidence. The HEC, however, counters the claim by saying that it had taken NOC from the council in this regard.

The HEC had sent 354 students to Cuba for MBBS on scholarships (offered to it by the Cuban government) in 2005 and 2006 and it is set to dispatch another batch of 600 students there for the purpose.

Having qualms about the medical education standards in Cuba, the PMDC sprung into action at its last meeting held in Islamabad and “asked the HEC not to send more students to Cuba unless the council gives permission and proper eligibility of the students to take the registration examination (of the council) on their return.”

The council’s executive committee also expressed displeasure over the issue and wondered as to how the matter of such a serious nature was dealt at secretariat level and was not brought to the notice of the council.

The PMDC constituted a two-member team, comprising Prof Abdul Malik Achakzai, principal of Bolan Medical College, Quetta; and Prof Masood Hamid Khan, vice-chancellor of Dow University of Health Sciences; and sent it to Cuba to inspect facilities and standards of education besides living conditions being provided to the Pakistani students.

The committee will submit its recommendations to the council reportedly in the first week of next month regarding the eligibility of these students for taking the National Examination Board test for consideration and necessary action by the council.

On the other hand, HEC Adviser (Human Resource Development) Dr S.M. Raza told Dawn that it had taken NOC from the PMDC. He said the Cuban government had provided it with 1,000 scholarships and the healthcare standards there were even better than the USA’s. Therefore, he said, there was no question of poor quality of medical education being imparted by institutions there.

Dr Raza said: “The PMDC is not a competent authority to give it directions and if it has any objection to the programme, it should come through either the prime minister or health ministry.” He said the HEC had borne the expenses of the team sent by the PMDC to Cuba to judge the standard of medical education.