Five senior officials from the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) will assist the Ministry of National Health Sciences (NHS) to prevent misunderstandings in the registration of 20 new medical colleges.
Officials from the legal, finance and inspection departments and two members of the council will help the ministry ensure applicants have met all the requirements before applying to register as a medical college.
On June 30, the NHS ministry forwarded 20 applications for new medical and dental colleges to the council for registration.
NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh had claimed that the ministry received 51 applications and only forwarded 20 after a detailed evaluation of their documentation.
On July 21, the PMDC set up a committee to scrutinize the documentation and legal and financial matters of all the applicants.
The committee was headed by council president Prof Dr Shabbir Lehri and included Prof Dr Abid Faroogi, Dr Shafigur Rehman, Dr Amir Hussain Bandesha and Dr Mohammad Haroon.
The committee was to finish scrutinising applications and inspecting the colleges by the end of September.
Among the legal and financial documents the committee was to look into were a title of ownership of the building or a 33-year lease agreement in favour of the college administration, covered area according to PMDC rules, proof of an endowment fund and working capital, a letter from the university with which the college would be affiliated and so on.
However, during the evaluation the com-mittee found that all the applications were missing documents, and the council decided to return the applications to the ministry.
In the past, when colleges were approved without ensuring all the facilities were available, students and the council faced problems when it became impossible to shut down colleges due to their admitted students.
Dr Lehri told Dawn that after the councilrejected all 20 applications, the ministry asked them to provide experts to scrutinise applications.
`We have decided to send the experts, because getting complete documents will be in our benefit. After receiving the application, if all the requirements have been met, we will again scrutinise the applications in the council and af ter that, the process of college inspections will be started.
`Our experts will join the ministry before Eidul Azha, and af ter that they will start the scrutiny. We do not want to take any risks, and want to ensure that only quality medical colleges are established in the country,` he said.
According to the list of applications, available with Dawn, there are 14 applications for colleges in Punjab, three in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two in Sindh and one in Islamabad.
Applicants from Punjab include Avicenna Medical College (Dental Section) in Lahore, Wapda Medical College in Lahore, Al-Aleem Medical College in Lahore, Hashmat Medical and Dental College in Gurjat, Niazi Medical and Dental College in Sargodha, CMH Kharian Medical College in Kharian, HITEC Institute of Medical Sciences Dental College in Taxila and Abwa Medical College in Faisalabad.
Abu Umara Medical and Dental College in Lahore, Bahawalpur Medical and Dental College in Bahawalpur, Watim Medical College in Rawalpindi, Shahida Islam Medical Complex (Dental College) in Lodhran, Rashid Latif Dental College in Lahore, Jhelum Medical College in Jhelum and HBS Medical and Dental College (Dental Section) in Islamabad have also applied.
Applicants from KP include Swat Medical College, Malakand Dental College in Matta, Swat and the Cantonment Board Institute ofMedical Sciences Dental College in Peshawar.
Bilawal Medical Colleges for Boys in Jamshoro and Mohammad Medical College (Dental College) in Mirpur Khan have applied from Sindh.
A number of stakeholders have criticised the registration process for new colleges, arguing that Pakistan has enough colleges.
Instead, they argue, the quality ofmedical education should be improved rather than focusing on the quantity of doctors.
The Pakistan Medical Association, a representative body of physicians, issued a statement last month alleging that most medical colleges are owned by influential and well-connected individuals whose reason for establishing such institutions has more to do with profit than providing medi-cal e duc ation.
Dr Qaisar Sajjad, the association`s secretary general, said in a statement: `Fact of the matter is that there are already 144 medical and dental colleges in the country, more private, but as far as the teaching and training facilities are concerned, with the exception of few [ones], all [lack] the basic PMDC requirements.
He stated: `In Pakistan we already have 144 medical and dental colleges. Af ter registration of another 20 colleges the total number will reach to 164. Currently we don`t have faculty members for the subjects of social sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, forensic medicine, etc.
`In some colleges almost 50pc seats are vacant and even rules have been relaxedsuch as assistant and associate professors are allowed to become dean if [a] professor is not available.
He said the number of colleges has more than tripled since 2007, and `one can imagine that the requirement of faculty is also increased by many folds`.
PMDC President Dr Lehri said he was well aware of the lack of faculty members and other matters related to the quality of education and lack of f facilities in medical colleges.
`We will make sure that all the facilities are available at applicant colleges, otherwise it will become a matter of embarrassment for the council.
`If there are deficiencies in all the applications, we will suggest they all apply next year. Meanwhile, we are also trying to impose a moratorium on new medical col-leges,` he said.
While giving a solution to the issue, an official of the PMDC, requesting anonymity, said the council should take steps to encourage foreign faculty members to come to Pakistan and start teaching. At present, there was a trend wherein doctors try to go abroad soon after they complete their education.
`The issue of the shortage of doctors will never be addressed as long as the trend of doctors` flight abroad is not stopped. I suggest that every medical student, who gets education from public sector colleges, should submit an undertaking that he will not leave the country for at least 15 years after completing his or her studies as their studies are borne from the country`s exchequer,` the official added.