MBBS (Bachelor of Medicines, Bachelor of Surgery) and BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) are the only degrees in Pakistan which offer a promising future to graduates. The significance of medical education and a prosperous post-qualification career made these programmes topmost priority for thousands of students in Pakistan. However, a gradual surge in selection merit of public sector medical and dental colleges compelled the students to seek admission in private medical and dental colleges in Pakistan and abroad as well. The difference of fee structure between the public sector and private medical & dental colleges restricted many talented candidates to fulfill their dream to become a doctor.
Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) formerly known as Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PM&DC) is the regulatory body of medical education in Pakistan. The Commission is established through Pakistan Medical Commission Act, 2020 promulgated in September 2020. Almost a year earlier, a presidential ordinance was enforced to dissolve the PM&DC and paved the way to establish the PMC. About 220 employees of PM&DC were asked not to attend the office and the district administration took possession of the building in Islamabad. The PM&DC employees knocked on the door of Islamabad High Court (IHC) for relief and the IHC declared the presidential ordinance for the dissolution of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) as null and void and reinstated the employees of the Council.
The government remained persistent to dissolve the PM&DC and establish the Pakistan Medical Commission. This two years-long battle resulted in various shades of inconsistent admission policies, multiple merit composition formulas, and unrest amongst the stakeholders. The newly established Commission has started to issue the policy decisions with lack of clarity on various matters including admissions, migration, fee & allied charges, conduct of NLE (National Licensing Exams) etc., to govern medical education in Pakistan. In the last three years, the students and medical & dental colleges across Pakistan remained uncertain about the induction policy.
The PMC has issued the new medical and dental undergraduate education (admissions, curriculum and conduct) Regulations, 2021 in June and categorised the colleges from ‘A+’ to ‘F’ grade on the basis of their last inspection score. The Commission has also directed the colleges to amend their fee structure as per their grade announced by the Commission and payment collection scheme by awarding a percentage of reward to students in case of lump-sum payment. The induction merit formula for public sector medical and dental colleges is a blur and not categorically worded in the regulations except a 55% weightage to MDCAT score. Whereas, the students’ induction formula for private medical colleges having less than ‘A’ grade includes a minimum of 25% weightage to MDCAT and 55% to HSSC score. An additional aptitude test or structured interview would be required to obtain an aggregate merit score. The Commission was required to play a genuine regulator role to define a clear-cut standard merit formula and a uniformed fee structure applicable to private medical & dental colleges. The grading of colleges according to inspection standards was required to be used to maintain the minimum quality of medical education rather to establish an impression of low and high standard colleges publically which could harm the graduates career after completion of studies.
Medical education is already a dreamlike wish for students in Pakistan. Due to limited opportunities in public sector medical and dental colleges, thousands of genuinely talented students remain deprived to secure their admission in MBBS and BDS programs. The luckiest few who are blessed with resources could fulfill their wish by securing admission to private medical and dental colleges. The rapidly increasing fee scale of private colleges has tarnished the dream and a huge number of talented candidates could not get admission only due to the non-affordability of bulky fees. The Commission has authorized the colleges to set their fee structure rather than regulate this aspect in a uniform manner.
Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions known as PAMI has threatened to cancel the admission this year under the newly issued regulations and to launch a protest in Islamabad. The association has published a whitepaper on the new regulations and appeals in the newspapers making a request to Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene into the ongoing issues between PMC and PAMI. The association has alleged that the Commission is constituted of non-technical personnel who have vested interests and are ruining medical education in Pakistan for the sake of their personal gains. They demanded the inclusion of real stakeholders in the Commission to safeguard the future of medical education in the country. This allegation warrants a serious inquiry at government level.
The pandemic, new regulations without clarity, the reservations of PAMI, and non-affordable fee structures of private medical & dental colleges could just upset the young mind of a student who is dreaming to become a doctor and serve the nation in future.
The regulatory body is meant to regulate the colleges and medical education in a decent manner so the stakeholders are satisfied and strive for excellence rather than indulge in pity matters. The Commission’s every step towards the surety of quality education in Pakistan would be supported at large and no segment of society can oppose an effort made in the right direction, however; implementation of a policy with plenty of questions can trigger chaos amongst the students and colleges. PMC needs to rectify the genuine concerns of students and medical & dental colleges on regulations before the time to come when a Pakistani doctor has no recognition in the world.