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October 18, 2020

Sindh to have its own council to regulate medical education: minister

Karachi

October 18, 2020

Accusing the federal government of creating mistrust between the Centre and the smaller provinces, the Sindh government has said it will establish its own medical and dental council to regulate medical education as it has serious reservations over the enactment of the law to establish the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) in place of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).

“We are working on the draft of a bill to establish Sindh Medical and Dental Council (SMDC), which will be tabled in the provincial assembly very soon. We wanted our provincial medical and dental council as a chapter of the federal council, but after establishment of the PMC, no other option is left for us except to establish our own council to regulate medical and dental education in Sindh,” she said while talking exclusively to The News on Friday.

Commenting on the rift between the federal and Sindh governments over admissions to public and private medical colleges in the province, the minister said that after the Sindh High Court’s order for postponing both the provincial and federal tests for admissions, it was hoped that the high court would look at the reservations of the smaller provinces, which wanted most of the seats at their medical and dental colleges filled with their own students.

“The court should also consider that there could be some bad laws too, which are not good for people. The creation of the PMC by abolishing the PMDC was not required; instead, reforms could be introduced to make it a better performing regulatory body. Secondly, the federal government should have taken the matter of the PMC to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to remove the concerns of the smaller provinces, but the bill to establish the PMC was passed when most of the opposition members were not present in the parliament,” she said.

Dr Pechuho remarked that the introduction of a mandatory Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test would prove to be a disaster for the students of the smaller provinces due to the differences in the curricula and systems of examinations, while abolishing the condition of the domicile for admissions to private medical colleges. She said allowing private medical colleges to charge fees of their choice would make medical education unaffordable for students from middle- and lower-class families.

Claiming that education and testing were a provincial subject after the devolution of powers, she said the vice chancellors and the registrars of provincial medical varsities had approached the high court on the issue of admissions to medical and dental colleges in Sindh. She hoped that court would consider the reservations of the people, students and the government.

Covid-19 re-infections

The provincial health minister said Covid-19 re-infections were being reported at different public and private hospitals in Sindh, where people who had earlier tested positive for the coronavirus infection asymptomatically were now having severe infections.

She advised the people to take precautionary measures even if they had contracted the disease earlier.

“Like in the rest of the world, re-infections with the coronavirus are being seen in Sindh too, and a couple of days back, a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Rashid Rabbani, died after contracting the Covid-19 second time within six months. Covid-19 is a very mysterious disease, and in many people, even the antibodies are not formed after getting infected.”

Dr Azra said she was in favour of the imposition of a Rs1,000 fine on people who did not wear masks in public places, as proposed by Karachi Administrator Iftikhar Shallwani. However, she added that the enforcement of laws regarding Covid-19 was a problem, as in some countries, people were linking the virus-related restrictions to human rights violations.

To a query, Dr Pechuho said that despite millions of people have been infected around the globe, no country or the city had claimed to achieve herd immunity. She was of the view that there was no such thing as herd immunity as this virus was infecting people again.

She advised the people to take precautionary measures as the second attack of the virus caused chronic infection and complications, especially in elderly people.

Risk allowance

Commenting on a protest by healthcare workers against the halting of a Covid-19 risk allowance by the provincial government, the minister said a notification to stop the risk allowance was being withdrawn for the time being. But she added that the healthcare workers should realise that this allowance could not be made a mandatory part of the salaries of the doctors.

“The medical profession is a risky profession and there is always a chance of contracting infectious diseases. People choose this profession by choice and it is part of essential services. Healthcare workers should realise that by stopping medical services to patients for just of a few hundreds or thousands of extra rupees is against the oath they take before joining this noble profession.”