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October 23, 2019

Medical education


October 23, 2019

There is no doubt at all that medical education in our country needs to be modernised and set up along lines that conform to standards in other countries. It is however questionable whether the means adopted by the current government to try and achieve this are advisable. The ordinance introduced on Sunday which demolished the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and, in its place, established the new Pakistan Medical Commission has already brought protests from young doctors, nurses, paramedics other medical staff in Lahore. On Monday these protests effectively paralyzed the city and caused immense inconvenience to patients who were left with no care. But the issue is one that involves many hundreds of citizens and must be considered carefully.

A similar bill to dissolve the PMDC had been attempted earlier but failed to make its way through the Senate. In such cases, resorting to ordinances is always likely to cause controversy. It may have been better strategy to discuss the creation of the new commission in parliament and persuade opposition parties of its merits rather than moving ahead with a presidential ordinance. The protesting medical staff in Lahore and other experts say the new commission and the change in the law gives private medical colleges almost complete autonomy, allowing them to set their own fees, determine which universities to seek affiliation with and appoint faculty members. The PMDC was set up in 1962 and had since then remained the statutory regulatory authority for laying down standards and practices in the medical profession. It is true it had not always acted effectively or on merit. However, the speculation that the PMDC’s actions in placing limits on the amounts that private medical colleges could charge and making attempts to regulate them has led to the new commission replacing this body is unfortunate. We hope the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Health Dr Zulfiqar Mirza is correct when he says that the purpose of the Pakistan Medical Commission is to improve the standards of education at health institutions and raise their quality.

While this may indeed be true, it would have been wise to discuss the measure with all stakeholders including medical practitioners and others already working in the sector. Young doctors say that under the new ordinance fees will be increased putting medical education beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. In Punjab they are also angered that Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid has refused to hear their complaints or take note of their objections. Parliament exists to discuss important issues. And given the impact of this decision on people everywhere in the country, it should indeed have been discussed in the house and on other forums.

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