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September 20, 2019

No enrolments in Health Services Academy for over a year


September 20, 2019

Islamabad : Dealing a blow to the cause of further education in public health, the Health Services Academy hasn’t enrolled a single student for postgraduate programmes since a law empowered it to award degrees over a year ago.

Insiders blame the suspension of admissions on the long delay in the appointment of the vice-chancellor to the country’s leading public health institute, the shortage of permanent faculty members, and the unavailability of syndicate and registrar.

They say ironically, all that is happening when the ministry’s top technical post i.e. director general’s, has been held by HSA executive director Dr Assad Hafeez for many years.

The HSA had become a degree-awarding institution in June last year after parliament passed the Health Services Academy (Restructuring) Act, 2018.

Earlier, it was affiliated with Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University offering one doctoral, five master’s, two postgraduate diploma and one postgraduate certificate courses in public health, community medicine, and health management and economics.

However, the academy suspended enrolments post legislation to the misery of public health practitioners and professionals seeking admission to short and long courses for career growth.

Like other degree-awarding institutions, the academy is bound by the law to offer courses only after getting them approved by the regulator for medical education in the country, PMDC. Another requisite for it is the registration of faculty.

However, the HSA hasn’t approached the PMDC for the purpose for the last one year with insiders calling this conduct one of a kind.

The Act claimed that the HSA had fulfilled all mandatory requirements to claim the right to award degrees, including autonomous status, own building, approved curricula, business development plan, endowment fund, publication of the country’s first Pakistan Journal of Public Health and Pakistan Public Health Association, and Higher Education Commission’s recommendation for the grant of charter.

Though the law stipulates an organisational chart (organogram) for the academy as a degree-awarding institution, its vice-chancellor, rector, director and deans have yet to be notified. And unless these appointments are made, the HSA won’t be able to exercise its right to award degrees.

Also, there’re reports that the HSA doesn’t have regular professors, associate professors, assistant professors and other teaching staff as required by the law.

Currently, it’s just a public health teaching institute affiliated with the Quaid-i-Azam University.

After the Health Services Academy (Restructuring) Act, 2018, took effect, the health services ministry had recommended own temporary DG, Dr Assad Hafeez, to the President’s Office for appointment as the HSA vice-chancellor but the recommendation was turned down and the ministry was told to propose three names.

The ministry acted accordingly with Dr Hafeez figuring among the three. The two others were acting NIH executive director Major-General Aamer Ikram and Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, UK, Dr Atif Rehman. However, the presidency rejected the recommendations and sought a fresh proposal. There’s been no follow-up of it on part of the health ministry since then.

The rumour has it that the health ministry is in the process of proposing the name of DG Assad Hafeez yet again for the HSA VC’s post disregarding fears of its rejection by the presidency.

Insiders claim that the regulator for higher education, HEC, formally threatened to strip the HSA of the status of the degree-awarding institution lately over the long delay in the VC’s appointment but the health ministry requested it not to do so promising the early filling of the coveted post.