Presidential Ordinance dissolves the PM&DC, paves the way for 7-member Management Committee to run the Council affairs

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Fair, transparent elections should be ensured soon

Presidential Ordinance dissolves the PM&DC,
paves the way for 7-member Management
Committee to run the Council affairs

MC members should consist of honest people with
credibility who can ensure fair, transparent
elections and restore the image of the Council

ISLAMABAD: After the recent disputed controversial elections of Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, something which was inevitable has eventually happened and some people in the medical profession are even surprised as to why it took the government so long to come to this conclusion and act so late. The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2014 issued by the President of Pakistan has dissolved the PM&DC set up and paved the way for a Seven Member Management Committee to run the affairs of the Council for the time being. This announcement was made by Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar last week while addressing a press conference. According to Saira Afzal Tarrar the committee members will be picked from the field of medicine, law and finance. The Federal Government will nominate one of the seven persons as the chairperson of the said committee.
PM&DC Ordinance, she said, was amended from time to time but in the Year 2012, some major amendments were made. “It is now a common ground that the said controversial elections of PM&DC should be set aside; an interim set up put in place and law made stringent to make PM&DC a more responsible, interactive body and a true regulator. It was essential to bring the requisite change through an ordinance which is the only method to pull PM&DC out of its current problems” she added. Over the years, the role of the Health ministry has been downplayed. It was in July 2012 this Ministry started looking into the effectiveness of the council. The outgoing government amended the law in February 2013 whereby a government officer was deputed as the administrator. It was necessary for the ministry to build a consensus amongst the professional doctors and the key stakeholders. A number of meetings were held in this regard and as a consequence they have all been brought on one page, she added.
It may be mentioned here that in the good old days it was the Director General of Health in the Federal Health Ministry which used to head the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council which most often used to be from the Army and it ensured smooth functioning of the Council but at times its inefficiency came under discussion at various forums. Prof. Naseer Sheikh was the first Civilian DG Health who served as President of the PM&DC, organized a medical education conference at KEMC Lahore and announced some important changes upgrading 40% of the junior doctors in the next grade besides creating the post of Associate Professor. He had certain other plans as well but then the political developments in the country changed the whole scenario. Members of the medical profession in general and the medical teachers in particular felt that some medical educationist, faculty member should be the President of the Council which should be elected by the members. A campaign was started to achieve this objective which was eventually successful and the PM&DC started electing its President. But then what happened, they abused and misused their powers and corruption at every level became rampant. They way mushroom growth of medical and dental colleges in the private sector were allowed and recognized, many of which even today do not fulfill the requirements of the PM&DC, it is alleged was the results of alleged massive corruption. Even at times rules were changed to facilitate the private medical and dental colleges. In the past even it is also alleged that some medical and dental colleges enrolled more than the permitted medical and dental students and later quietly got them enrolled in the PM&DC. Each such admission meant an earning of forty to fifty lacs of rupees and when this was pointed out, those in the Council who had raised their voice were victimized, suspended, threatened and eventually removed.
In fact it was a major blunder to leave the medical profession “Mother Piddar Azad”. We should have learnt lessons from the experience of others. We follow the British pattern in medical education and even in UK, the authorities realized that medical profession cannot monitor itself, hence they made changes and now about 50% of the General Medical Council membership consists of non-doctors but they are representatives drawn from Trusts and Foundations running medical and educational institutions and not politicians. We must be careful and make sure that the corrupt politicians do not have any say in running the affairs of the PM&DC. The new management must form a Commission, order audit of accounts, review all the decisions taken by the previous management, inspect all the medical and dental institutions both in public and private sector, identify deficiencies in teaching faculty and other training facilities, give them six months time to make up these deficiencies and then re-inspect. Those medical and dental colleges which have failed to establish their own teaching hospitals should not be allowed under any circumstances to admit new students, irrespective of the fact whether these institutions are owned by members of the Parliament or others influential in the power corridors. Many of the functions can be delegated to the regional offices of PM&DC but there should be no compromise on maintaining the standards of medical education.
The recent debacle also proves beyond any doubt that members of the medical profession are not competent and intelligent enough to run its affairs honestly, upholding merit, ensuring transparency, hold free and fair elections smoothly at least in the PM&DC. (CPSP remains an exception which has held fair and transparent elections.) On the other hand, they are prepared to compromise to promote their own vested interests even at the cost of tarnishing their own image and credibility. However, who are the members selected to run and manage the affairs of the PM&DC and what is their performance will be watched with interest by all concerned. Will this new change prove to be better or not? Corruption, it is alleged has become rampant in the PM&DC at every level and no file moves without Nazrana. Officials in the PM&DC seldom respond to the communications from the medical profession or specialty organizations and queries remain unanswered for months. Even for equivalence experience certificates, people have to wait for months and months without much success. Will the new set up succeed in changing this corruption culture in the Council, hold fair and transparent elections, only time will tell?