Judiciary starts monitoring the medical profession


 Judiciary starts monitoring 
the medical profession

ISLAMABAD: Failure of the medical profession to put its house in order and put in place some self-monitoring mechanism has paved the way for judiciary which has now started monitoring the medical profession. It all started with the issue of entrance test for admission to medical and dental colleges which was followed by dissolution of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council replacing it with an adhoc body and then taking up the issue of prices of stents, cost and package for various cardiac intervention procedures including angioplasty. If this was not all, the Chief Justice also visited some healthcare facilities and expressed his displeasure over the state of affairs and provision of healthcare. Some members of the medical profession are of the view that the judiciary has gone too far but had the medical profession realized all this and professional specialty organizations as well as other bodies of the medical profession come up with some accountability mechanism and self-monitoring, it would have been much better.

Medical education in Pakistan has unfortunately become an industry as there is too much money involved in it.  Many businessmen and Real Estate Tycoons who have nothing to do with the health sector has jumped in and established medical and dental colleges.  Army did not lag behind and it has also established a number of medical and dental colleges all over the country. Pakistan is blessed with too many Mafia Groups and the private medical and dental colleges have emerged yet another strong mafia. After the Jhurloo elections of the PM&DC wherein Prof. Masood Hammed was elected as President, the PM&DC was totally politicized. Corruption was rampant and the report prepared by the commission appointed by Islamabad High Court with Dr. Sania Nishtar and her colleagues is an eye opener which has documented lot of wrong doings.  In fact at one time a majority of the Executive committee members of the PM&DC were owners of the private medical and dental colleges. Every decision they took was to benefit the private medical institutions starting from increase in seats, increase in fees and reducing the strength of the faculty requirements which ensured them more money and more profits. If gave the impression as if the PM&DC has been converted into “Private Medical and Dental Colleges Association”. Based on the recommendations of Sania Nishtar Commission, the court ordered re-election of the PM&DC. The new council started working and the President Prof. Shabbir Ahmad Lehri was very vocal against the private medical colleges most of whom were selling seats on donation in addition to the prescribed tuition fees. Even students with very low marks were given admission by taking huge donation denying admission to more deserving candidates. They also opposed the central admission policy suggested by the PM&DC.

A campaign was started against the University of Health Sciences to escape central admission  with the objective of getting rights to make direct admission by the medical colleges themselves  and they did succeed to some extent after a decision on a petition in the Lahore High Court but then it did not stop there. Little had the owners of the private medical & dental colleges realized that in the days to come they may face more trouble and problems.

Now the adhoc committee of PM&DC has met once but practically everything is at standstill. The PM&DC was dissolved since the Senate where Pakistan People’s Party had majority did not allow passage of the ordinance. Hence, it became PML-N vs. PPP with the result that now the whole medical profession has to face the music. It is still time that the saner elements in the medical profession must come forward and agree on some basic issues, do not politicize things and instead of protecting their own vested interests or toeing their political  party line to  which they are affiliated, think for the betterment of the medical profession as a whole, safeguard the quality and standard of medical education, ensure transparent working, uphold merit, discourage seeking donation from students seeking admission to their institutions. Protect your image and dignity before it is too late. Otherwise the days are not far off when someone else will also start determining consultant’s professional fee, charges for various surgical procedures, hospitalization charges and cost of all other healthcare services including monitoring the private healthcare facilities and introducing some sort of accountability. An important first step could be that in future only those Trusts, Foundations with proven academic accomplishments and service in the field of education and health sector should be allowed to establish medical and dental colleges. Not only that it must be ensured that they first establish a 300-500 bed hospital and also take the responsibility of providing healthcare to the population in some of the adjacent district.