Undergraduates, Postgraduate, Faculty members are all worried in view of uncertain future

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Plight of Medical Education, Health Services in Pakistan
Undergraduates, Postgraduate, Faculty members
are all worried in view of uncertain future
MTI will not succeed as it requires couple of years to create
the desired infrastructure-Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi

From our correspondent

LAHORE: Undergraduates, postgraduates as well as faculty members are all worried and there is lot of unrest among them because of some recent developments and measures taken by the regulatory bodies which has put a question mark on their future which looks uncertain says Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi a noted physician who recently retired as Professor of Medicine from King Edward Medical University. While talking to Pulse International on June 21st Prof. Irshad Qureshi discussed a number of issues faced by the medical profession these days from undergraduate to postgraduate medical education, health services, Institutional practice, National Licensing Examination proposed by Pakistan Medical Commission, the functioning of the College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan etc. in detail.


Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi

Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi who himself graduated from King Edward Medical College in 1985 and out of forty one years’ service spent thirty seven years at King Edward Medical College/University holding coveted posts of Dean of Medicine and Registrar of King Edward Medical University said that the training slots for the Postgraduates have been drastically reduced. Not only that Pakistan Medical Commission has not yet inspected and approved many teaching hospitals in Lahore itself which includes Allama Iqbal Medical College, Services Institute of Medical Sciences and Punjab Institute of Cardiology etc., with the result that they cannot induct postgraduates unless some developments takes place at the last minute. Even those who had worked at Basic Health Units to earn the required twenty marks cannot be absorbed at present on merit since the training slots have been drastically reduced. There is lot of resentment among the undergraduates due to the proposed NLE, postgraduates for non-availability of training slots, among faculty members due to an uncertain future. Various professional bodies of the medical profession including the Pakistan Medical Association have been agitating for quite some time and they might resort to demonstrations and initiate a campaign against these measures. It is feared that if the postgraduates did not get any relief, they might decide to come on the roads, hence the authorities must act before it is too late, he remarked.

Continuing Prof. Irshad Qureshi said that there is lot of difference between Shaukat Khanum Hospital and Mayo Hospital and those who have never worked in a public hospital for a single day are not capable of understanding the situation and coming up with appropriate solutions. Similarly Aga Khan University Hospital is not Pakistan and those in authority must try to understand these issues. Americanization of Health Services is a sure prescription for disaster. Institutional practice is a good idea, no one can argue against ensuring punctuality for the staff including the faculty members, academic audit, monitoring and accountability but before initiating these measures, we need lot of investment to provide the basic infrastructure. There is no proper place for the consultants to sit in the Out Patients Departments in most of the public hospitals. Similar is the case as regards waiting areas for the patients and restroom facilities. How one can expect the private patients to come to these healthcare facilities unless authorities provide comfortable working environment and waiting areas in public hospitals.

Talking about the King Edward Medical University, Prof. Irshad Qureshi said that first eliminating the post of Principal while upgrading the college to a medical university and then detaching the Mayo Hospital from the university were the worst decisions which have seriously affecting the administration, teaching and training at this premier medical institution of Pakistan. We saw founding Vice Chancellor Prof. Mumtaz Hassan and Medical Superintendent Dr. Ranjha exchanging harsh words with each other. Prof. Ijaz Ahsan and Prof. Eice Mohammad, Prof. Irshad Qureshi said did try and made a difference to improve the functioning of King Edward Medical College to a great extent but then situation kept on changing. Young Doctors Association and its leadership in particular has been very upset, at times rude and did not respect the seniors which did create a very bad situation and King Edward Medical College remained in news for deteriorating law and order situation for quite some time. Then grouping and politics within the faculty members also destroyed this institution.

In response to a question, Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi said that he had himself applied for the post of Vice Chancellor of medical universities. During the interview when I was asked for my option I opted for King Edward Medical University. When Prof. Mahmood Ali Malik asked me why I was not giving some second option as well like Fatima Jinnah Medical University, my reply was “My first choice, second choice and even third choice will be King Edward Medical University and no other university”. I personally believe that those selected to head various medical institutions, should have no conflict of interest. When I was asked how you will bring a change at KEMU as it needs to change the Act itself, I had remarked that every medical teacher has contact with at least half a dozen Members of the Punjab Assembly. I will use their contacts to change the Act itself making the desired and much needed amendments. When Prof. Jawad Sajid came to address a function at KEMU, he said the same thing and repeated what I had said in my interview where he was a member of the selection committee alongwith Prof. Mahmood Ali Malik.

Look at the composition of the Pakistan Medical Commission. It has members from Shaukat Khanum Hospital and Aga Khan University plus few from private medical universities, colleges but no representative from the public sector. And these members have been asked to make policies for improving the functioning of the public sector medical institutions and healthcare facilities about which they know nothing since they have no experience of working there. He agreed that we are facing this situation because of lack of effective leadership in the medical profession. People are just interested in saving their chairs hence they are not speaking.

Talking about the National Licensing Examination proposed for all fresh medical graduates, Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi said that it is just like expressing no confidence in the examinations conducted by the medical universities, medical and dental colleges. The students first appear in FSc examination, then Entrance Examination, then they appear in First, Second, Third and Final professional examinations. Now the authorities wish them to sit in yet another examination after having graduated. If the authorities insist on NLE, those who pass should then directly be inducted in training slots and they should not be required to clear FCPS-I, as is the case with those who clear the USMLE exam in USA, he remarked. Do we wish the doctors to undertake exam after exam throughout their life? They already have to work hard to appear and qualify postgraduate examinations to earn postgraduate degrees. We had lot of hopes since Prof. Yasmin Rashid the Punjab Health Minister has struggled throughout her professional life to improve the working conditions of doctors and facilities available at public sector healthcare facilities as faculty member and as a leader of Pakistan Medical Associate but I am sorry to say that she has disappointed the medical profession a lot. Perhaps she is helpless and decisions are taken somewhere else, he added.

Speaking about the College of Physicians & Surgeons Paksitan, Prof. Irshad Qureshi said that President is perhaps not willing to quit, some have titles and some enjoy all the powers. It is functioning on “Auto”. It is feared that in the days to come some more groups might emerge and all this is not a good omen for College of Physicians & Surgeons of Pakistan which enjoys international recognition, credibility and holding examinations on time. All this could be achieved and implemented due to the hard work, sincere and dedicated leadership, and council members all these years. Everyone has contributed his/her share to improve its functioning. However, now even it is difficult to find examiners. People are not interested to come for examination lasting for few days two to three times in a year with the result that people with Registrar level are inducted as Examiners. As per rules one third of examiners have to be internal and two third are supposed to be external examiners but it cannot be implemented as many medical teachers are not interested to act as examiners for various reasons. He hoped that all the stake holders will discuss these issues and try to find a workable, feasible solution so that CPSP retains its respect and prestige as a postgraduate medical institution.

Prof. Irshad Hussain Qureshi it may be mentioned here graduated from King Edward Medical College in 1985 and later earned Fellowship of College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan in 1992. Apart from serving as Dean of Medicine and Registrar at King Edward Medical University, he also served as Chief Warden of hostels for thirteen years. After retirement in 2020, he has now joined Rahbar Medical College at Lahore. His farewell reception at KEMU was very largely attended by the present and retired faculty members and other KEMCOLIANS.

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