ISLAMABAD: What could only be termed as sheer negligence and inefficiency on part of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and Ministry of Health, thousands of Pakistani doctors face critical threat of a comprehensive ban to practice and study in the United States and Europe.
Investigation by Daily Times revealed that a few months ago the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities (IAMRA) had issued repeated warnings to the PMDC, asking it to improve the quality of medical education and shut all illegal medical colleges.
The IAMRA had stipulated that in case of non-compliance, it would ask the governments of the United States and all the European countries to ban the Pakistani doctors work or study in their respective jurisdictions.
PMDC President Prof Shabbir Lehri confirmed that the warning had been issued a few months ago. He claimed the PMDC fought the case before the IAMRA and got one-year relaxation in order to improve the quality of medical education in Pakistan. He, however, failed to show any documentary evidence of the said relaxation.
He said the PMDC got illegal or unauthorised medical colleges sealed. He lamented that in the past those medical colleges were allowed to operate, which brought international embarrassment to Pakistan and jeopardised the future of Pakistani doctors.
The IAMRA comprises almost all the medical regulatory authorities in the world. Hardly, any country can entertain the doctors from another country without the approval and authorisation of the IAMRA.
Sources said the Pakistani negotiators spoiled the case before the IAMRA, as they concealed the fact that the PMDC was not actually functional since 2012. The PMDC, at that time, was being run by an ad-hoc committee. And, therefore, it did not have the authority to recognise or seal the medical colleges.
Meanwhile, rival countries like India exploited the opportunity to malign Pakistan in order to adjust maximum number of Indian doctors in US and Europe. The Pakistani doctors had once been very influential and instrumental in IAMRA. Prof Syed Sibitul Hasnain was member of the management committee of the authority. Former PMDC registrar Dr Ahmad Nadeem Akbar was also the member of IAMRA and the World Federation of Medical Education.
Sources said problems appeared when the PPP government appointed a Rawalpindi-based doctor as registrar of the PMDC. The performance of the PMDC massively deteriorated. The recognition of several illegal medical colleges brewed an international controversy, prompting the government to form a commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi. The commission concluded that most members of the caretaker setup at the PMDC and the Ministry of Health were responsible for the irregularities. The authorities tried to hush the matter up, but the report could not escape the world attention. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Health repeatedly pointed out seriousness of the matter and held the PMDC ad-hoc committee and the Ministry of Health responsible for the situation. The committee had demanded immediate removal of the ad-hoc members, but it took the PML-N government more than two years to make the decision. By that time, the damage was already done.
PMDC former registrar Dr Akbar advised the PMDC and the Ministry of Health to fight their case before the IAMRA by providing evidence that the illegal medical colleges had been sealed and would never be allowed to operate under any circumstances.