LAHORE: Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries have banned the century-old MS (Master of Surgery) and MD (Doctor of Medicine) postgraduate degree programmes, removing it from the highest-paid tier of medics in KSA. This decision has reportedly affected hundreds of qualified medical practitioners who have been rendered jobless. Several are still present in Saudi Arabia and have been offered the options to leave or face deportation.
The Saudi ministry of health has decided to reject Pakistan’s MS/MD degree on the grounds of lack of structure in these training programme, which is a mandatory requirement to hire medics against important positions. After Saudi Arabia’s move, other countries including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have also taken similar steps.
Majority of the terminated doctors were hired by Saudi health ministry in 2016 on clearing interviews that were conducted in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad after online applications.
The decision has proven to be a cause of great embarrassment for the affected Pakistani doctors, since the same degree programme offered by India, Egypt, Sudan and Bangladesh is accepted by Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Copies of service termination letters of several doctors issued by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS) stated that “Your application for professional qualification has been rejected. The reason is that your master degree from Pakistan is not acceptable according to the SCFHS regulations.”
A popular opinion that has been forming over time is that the entity to be blamed for this embarrassment, and damage to the careers of the affected doctor, is College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP).
A spokesperson for the Association of University Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, Dr Asad Noor Mirza termed this as a setback for Pakistan’s major degree qualification and disrespect to the highly qualified cream of the nation.
It is being alleged that during their visit of the Gulf States, the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) touted the FCSP as the only training-based post-graduate degree in Pakistan, which led to the subsequent invalidation of other post-graduate degrees from Pakistan in the medical field. CPSP’s move to sell its own programme in place of others has not only caused a disastrous risk of job losses for hundreds of qualified and trained medical professionals, it has led to an invalidation which will affect generations of practitioners in the field.
Dr Ali Usman, an affected medic, lamented, “I had done five-year postgraduate qualification from the University of Health Sciences, Lahore, with training from Lahore General Hospital. All of a sudden the Saudi health ministry terminated my job contract, landing me and my family in immense shock.”
Dr Usman said when he contacted Director General of Collaboration Department, Saudi Arabia, Saeedul Barki, he told him that his qualification was rejected when the CPSP delegation told the authorities that there was no training-based post-graduate medical degree in Pakistan, except FCPS. Mr Barki said the CPSP president held multiple meetings with relevant officials in Saudi Arabia and asked the authorities to consider only FCSP qualified Pakistani medics for jobs here.
He said the CPSP had misled the SCFHS ignoring the fact that Pakistan’s university degree qualification was a structured training programme.
When approached for comments, Vice Chancellor University of Health Sciences, Prof Dr Javed Akram, dispelled the impression that the MS/MD programme was not a structured training qualification.
“The MS/MD programme was started in 1914 and the first MS degree was awarded to G.B. Kapoor from Punjab University,” he said. These degrees have been declared a five-year level-III research and clinical qualification by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, he added.
“The MS and MD degrees are enriched with dynamic, congruent and structured curriculum comprising clinical and research component at par excellence of international standards designed by the World Federation of Medical Education,” Prof Akram said.
He informed that the University of Health Sciences and many senior medical experts from all over the country had recently took up the issue of termination of jobs of Pakistani medics and also talked to the SCFHS.
According to official figures, currently 4,440 postgraduates are serving at various government and private medical institutions in Pakistan, out of which 102 are teaching as faculty members in senior positions.
Secretary of the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department, Punjab, Momin Agha, said the issue was discussed with provincial Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid and it was mutually decided to hand over the matter to the medical education committee who will review the under-graduate and post-graduate degree programmes. The committee comprises senior medical teachers of high repute that would examine the issue in respect of reforms in the MS/MD qualification, if needed, to meet the international requirements. He said the local health authorities would take up the matter with health managers in the Arab countries.
Dean (academics) of the CPSP, Prof Dr Ghulam Mustafa Arain, rejected the allegations levelled by the affected doctors and said the CPSP representatives had been promoting FCPS qualification during visits abroad to create a good image of Pakistan in the field of medical education. The CPSP can’t think of degrading any medical education programme of Pakistan abroad, Arain added.
Medical News could not reach CPSP President Prof Dr Zafarullah Chaudhry despite continuous attempts.