By Dr. Tayaba Naim Khan
Islamabad: Recent controversy and allegations heaped on Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) have highlighted another neglected area in dentistry of Pakistan. One of the most significant concerns was the uncovering of multiple dental and medical doctors given fake degrees for as low as Rs. 11,000 ($ 110). Although PMDC took immediate action to resolve the case, the Pandora’s box had already opened. PMA has blatantly called PMDC a white elephant contributing to the destruction rather than building of the health education system of Pakistan.
This is in stark contrast to PMDC’s recent decision to refuse registration of degrees of 27 students of Khyber College of Dentistry (KCD), stating that the college violated the minimal student intake of 50 students per annum. The question is, why are those students who simply pay up some bribe are granted the same registration status versus those students who have actually studied and worked hard to get the degree? The violation of the college is indeed wrong, but the end suffering is for the student who, if not given the registration status, has effectively wasted his five years of dental education.
The conscious circle of dental surgeons has stepped up by taking this issue seriously and filing Petition under Article 199, claiming that PMDC remains a regulatory authority under the Federal Law. These individuals led by Dr Naveed Rashid claim that PMDC must be brought under some form of supervision and control with more stringent performance evaluation measures to ensure quality education.
The de-notification of the current council and its replacement with seven-member interim committee to investigate and manage the council may well be the first step towards hoped recovery of the system. This council includes the who’s who of the country’s health care and education system including Professor Ghiasuddin Butt from Pakistan Institute of Medical Science, Dr Faisal Sultan CEO of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Dr Abdul Bari Khan CEO Indus Hospital Karachi and Grade 20 officers belonging to the ministries of Law, Finance and National Health Services. One wonders why such a diversified and integrated set of individuals peering into different aspects of health care were not recruited before.
The problem boils down to leadership or the apparent lack of it, particularly in terms of strategic direction and planning for health care industry of Pakistan. The current events and allegations have reduced even further the credibility of medical and dental graduates of Pakistan in the international market. Already the PMDC was under much critique for not updating its medical and dental curricula in accordance with international standards.
The same council in November of last year was criticized heavily for charging exorbitant fee by private medical colleges. Note that on another occasion, the Auditor General of Pakistan reported embezzlement of over Rs. 900 million ($ 9344845) within the last five years. The high fee issue according to the Lahore High Court bench did not make sense since the regular PMDC staff at the time comprised of only 15 persons having hold of over 102 colleges nationwide. This according to the Court was incomprehensible given the nature of the studies and education being conferred on students. This automatically puts a strong question mark on the teaching methodology, quality standards and educational strategy carried out by the council. It also raises question on where all this money has been used, since so far no significant development in the medical or dental educational sector can be seen.
PMDC off course is not quiet on the allegations. In its press conference in February, the members of the council emphasized the poor conditions in which they inherited the council and their efforts to bring up the standard of medical and dental education in the country. The denounced members stated that PMDC must be given an autonomous and powerful status to carry out its regulatory affairs with full authority. With the eye popping amount of embezzlement charges placed upon them, it will be a very hard case to win in front of many struggling dental surgeons and medical doctors who feel no role of the council in their professional education apart from filing for registration.