An independent body?

THE Pakistan Medical and Dental Council’s plan – still under consideration – to work out a new admission policy and uniform fee structure for private and public-sector medical colleges should technically have been welcomed as a positive move. But medical education in Pakistan is in a poor state of health and cosmetic changes as envisaged will not improve matters.

The first factor is the credibility of the regulator itself. For the PMDC to take a strong position on controversial issues – admissions being linked to a candidate’s capacity to pay high fees and the fabulous fee structure of many medical colleges – it is important that the Council should be a truly independent body that can act on the merit of a case with no stakes in the matter except to represent the public interest. Can the PMDC claim to be such a body? Many of its 100- plus members are proprietors or have links with proprietors of private medical colleges. Under these circumstances, if the PMDC acts to ostensibly check the excesses of the private institutions how can one be certain that its motives are altruistic?

Even before any measure is taken to regulate admissions and fees, it is important to look into the issue of registration of private medical colleges. They have proliferated across the country and regretfully the PMDC’s role as the accrediting body is open to question. Many of the institutions that have received registration are said to lack the facilities and quality that would qualify them as medical colleges. According to a report nearly 40 per cent of the 88 medical colleges in Pakistan are in the private sector and quite a few do not deserve registration. But with the private sector so preponderantly represented in the PMDC this may not appear surprising.

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