Tuesday September 21, 2021

Absence of health sector, medical edu regulator: IHC takes up PMDC non-restoration pleas

March 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) takes up today (Wednesday) the non-restoration of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PM&DC) by the federal government as ordered by it in a judgment delivered on February 2, 2019.

At the same time, a contempt application has also been moved in the IHC, agitating non-implementation of its verdict.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will hold the hearing on the two pleas. The IHC had ruled that the PM&DC, which was dissolved by the federal government by promulgating a presidential ordinance that set up a Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) in its place. The ordinance was declared null and void.

The IHC had ruled that the interim PM&DC as formed under the stewardship of Justice (R) Shakirul Jan by the Supreme Court stands revived and the sacked PM&DC employees restored. It had directed that the PM&DC offices, which had been sealed by the government, should be unlocked.

An informed official told The News that a summary has been sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the health minister, proposing the full implementation of the IHC verdict. Before that, the federal cabinet had already given the green signal to enforce the IHC judgment.

In the last hearing on March 11, the IHC said that in compliance of its order of March 3, the health secretary put appearance and stated that the federal government is in process of implementing the February 11, 2019 whereby the status of PM&DC has been restored. It has further been stated at the bar that on the next date of hearing, Wednesday, the secretary will submit in writing regarding restoration of the PM&DC so that question raised in the instant writ petition with regard to alternate remedy under the existing rules and regulations of PM&DC is available to the petitioner or otherwise.

As Pakistan is intensely fighting against the coronavirus pandemic, the government is keeping the apex health sector and medical education regulator suspended and its offices sealed despite the IHC judgment to immediately restore the PM&DC.

According to senior health sector professionals, this situation is unprecedented and unheard of anywhere in 193 countries in the world that a country doesn’t have a health and medical education regulator.

Important functions of a public sector regulator like PM&DC are regulation of medical and dental education, registration of all medical colleges, policy pertaining to admission to medical colleges, registration of Pakistani and foreign qualified doctors, and standards of medical practice and health service providing facilities, including private hospital, and teaching hospitals. The PM&DC also has a statutory duty of coordination and collaboration with international health regulation institutions. It verifies degrees, qualifications and does good standing certification of Pakistani doctors, who get fellowships, employments and advance training opportunities abroad.

Soon after taking office, the government, with the approval of the prime minister, established a health sector Reform Task Force led by a person, who is a medical practitioner in the United States, and has been a key associate in the establishment of Shaukat Khanam Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH). The task force mostly consisted of medical professionals, legal experts and philanthropists, who have been part of the prime minister’s team in the SKMCH. One of the key reforms the task force undertook was abolishment of the PM&DC functioning since 1962 through a law, drafted by the task force without any input from ministries of health and law, or provincial health departments.