The PMC Conundrum
Opening private medical/dental colleges and universities is a lucrative business in Pakistan. Even with their fees capped by the previous PMDC, their growth has been phenomenal. With the new law, they will have an even more lethal ‘licence to kill’.
On 20th October 2019, the President of Pakistan signed a new ordinance titled ‘Pakistan Medical Commission Ordinance 2019’ by virtue of which a new era was envisioned to begin with reference to regulations and control of the medical profession by establishing uniform minimum standards of medical education and training and recognition of qualifications in medicine and dentistry.
The Pakistan Medical Commission is a triumvirate body and comprises the Medical Council, National Medical & Dental Academic Board and the National Health Authority. The Medical Council is the apex body of the commission and the other two organizations are to work under the supervision of the apex body.
The basic purpose of PMC is to inspect and formulate recommendations regarding recognition of medical and dental institutions for training of undergraduate and post graduate qualifications, to inspect under and post-graduation examinations for standardization, setting up schemes of reciprocity with other countries and medical and dental regulatory authorities and prescribing the standards of examinations as well as methods of conducting the exams in order to bring conformity in medical education across the country. It is also a mandate of the commission that no member should have any conflict of interest described as ownership interest in a teaching hospital or medical or dental college or university.
However, ever since PMC replaced the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) it has been surrounded by controversies and continues to court contentious issues.
The Ordinance mandates conducting MDCAT examination for admission to medical colleges, be it private or public, which would be centralized at the national level. But strangely enough, private medical colleges have been given liberty in deciding weightage given to marks obtained in the MDCAT.On the other hand, in case of public medical and dental colleges each provincial government has the authority to decide the pass percentage for the MDCAT examination. In such a scenario, private colleges have the conscious volition to adjust their scores according to their whims. Prima facie, giving this liberty to private institutions defeats the whole purpose, as has been seen with the National University of Medical Sciences and the Aga Khan Medical University, where they conduct their own independent entry tests. This has opened a pandora’s box, and other medical collages are demanding the same exemption for their institutions. Hence, in the interest of all concerned, it is imperative that PMC should devise a centralized criterion for admission in public and private medical colleges across the country, without prejudice and bias.