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Nine medical colleges allowed to operate without fulfilling criteria – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a dubious move, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has allowed nine medical and dental colleges to operate even though they have been found to be deficient on many counts, documents available with Dawn have revealed.

What makes the decision all the more controversial is that it was taken on a single day, without following the procedure and in violation of rules and regulations.

Documentary evidence available with Dawn shows that the nine private colleges were on a “stop admission list” and recommended for closure by the defunct Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC) or not allowed to conduct operations at all.

However, in a strange twist following the promulgation of PMC Act 2020, the nine institutions were allowed to carry out provisional admissions through nine notifications issued on Dec 17 last year. The notifications carried the signatures of PMC Secretary Dr Shaista Zeeshan.

The colleges allowed to operate were: the Shifa College of Dentistry, Islamabad; Abbottabad International Medical College; Ruth Pfau Medical College, Karachi; Watim Medical College, Rawalpindi; Khairpur Medical College, Khairpur; Azra Naheed Dental College, Lahore; Dow Dental College, Karachi; Muhammad Dental College, Mirpurkhas; and Swat Medical College, Swat.

The colleges were allowed to admit 50-100 students to their MBBS and BDS programmes.

The PMC has been claiming through its own letters written to public sector medical universities from time to time, besides the Higher Education Commission (HEC), that it has nothing to do with the affiliation and registration of medical colleges.

One such letter was written by PMC president Dr Arshad Taqi to the HEC chairman on Oct 20 last year in which he stated: “Pursuant to section 19(1) of the PMC Act 2020, all universities with medical faculty are to maintain their constituent medical and dental colleges or grant affiliation to any medical and dental college subject to approval by or any applicable rules and regulations as prescribed by the HEC on fulfillment of accreditation standards approved by the Medical and Dental Council.”

It further said: “Consequently any college seeking affiliation and a university seeking to grant affiliation may approach the HEC for the said purpose and shall be inspected by HEC for purposes of grant of affiliation subject to the teaching hospital where the college proposes to offer its students a house job is inspected and approved by the PMC pursuant to Section 28 of the PMC Act 2020.

“Furthermore, a list of existing recognised medical and dental colleges shall shortly be provided to HEC, along with any necessary record as may be required by HEC, including the last inspection results of such colleges.”

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regu-lations and Coordination said letters were written in Nov 2019 by Dr Arsalan Hyder, who was the secretary to PMC at the time, to heads of private medical colleges who had sought provisional registration of their institutions after “inspections by the HEC”.

“None of the colleges was ever inspected by the HEC,” the official alleged.

A private medical college, he added, was given provisional permission to start MBBS classes, but it started BDS classes as well. “The matter needs thorough investigation either by the FIA or NAB.”

The issue has already been taken up by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and, among other questions, it is trying to ascertain whether kickbacks were paid to get the closed private medical colleges reopened.

An FIA official said: “All the nine private medical colleges were closed by the defunct Pakistan Medical and Dental Council after following rules and regulations that were in place at that time in order to improve the declining standards of medical education.”

“This is a perfect case of white collar crime,” the official told Dawn. “These institutions are deficient in almost every aspect — from faculty to resources needed for registration of any medical college with PMC.”

FIA inquiry

The official said FIA had tracked down a few individuals and would call them for questioning shortly.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had recently said the PMC had failed to maintain uniform standards in medical and dental education across the country.

The watchdog found that private medical colleges, in league with PMC, violated merit and indulged in corruption.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhawa NAB initiated an inquiry against some PMC officers, owners and management of medical and dental colleges on charges of corruption and misuse of authority in the admission process.

The bureau also investigated allegations that such institutions were receiving “abnormal donations”.

The NAB submitted its report to the Peshawar High Court. The report said Peshawar’s Muhammad College of Medicine (MCM), Abbottabad’s Frontier Medical College, the Abbottabad International Medical and Dental College, the Women’s Medical & Dental College, Abbottabad, and Rehman Medical and Dental College, Peshawar, had indiscriminately used the provision of 20 per cent grace marks to accommodate low aggregate candidates on their whims for illegal monetary gains.

Astronomical fees

The fee structure of a number of private colleges was found to be astronomically high, warranting the PMC’s intervention as a regulator.

The admission committees of these colleges did not conduct structured interviews and focused on financial health of the candidates. A number of candidates complained that no merit list was displayed by the private medical and dental colleges and students were enrolled on first come first served basis instead of merit.

The inquiry report recommended that all admissions granted on the basis of 20pc interview marks allowed by PMC be rescinded.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2021

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