My Twitter feed was filled with rage. Three top trends stared me down: #WeRejectNLE, #SayNoToNLE and #SaveFutureDoctors. I thought it was another Young Doctors Association (YDA) protest against the non-acceptance of their new demands until I saw my timeline flooded with tweets of aspiring doctors and medical students criticizing NLE.
The curiosity got the best of me and I dig into the matter. Turns out, the Government of Pakistan has promulgated PMDC and formed Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) by presidential order. President Arif Alvi, a dentist himself, signed the ordinance leaving young doctors and medical students in fury.
What is PMDC?
The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) was the regulatory body for medical education in Pakistan that maintained the official register of practicing doctors and dentists. Establishing a uniform minimum standard of basic and higher qualifications in medicine and dentistry throughout the country were the main responsibility of the PMDC.
Working together with the Higher Education Commission, PMDC had the authority to set certain standards for medical education throughout Pakistan. In short, PMDC was the sole authoritative body for the field of medicine and dentistry in Pakistan, be it issuance of licenses or experience letters, keeping records of medical students or practitioners, setting conditions for admission in medical colleges or regulating the institutions related to the field of medicine.
The regulatory body had its own shortcomings, i.e. private colleges had been overcharging students under the very nose of the PMDC and no action had been taken. Also, the commercial interests of the PMDC led the body to recognize low-standard colleges without an attached teaching hospital or properly qualified staff and standard laboratories. Many other reports of introducing double shifts in colleges to increase enrollment of students have surfaced that hint that no action was taken against such colleges.
But the government’s sudden decision to dissolve PMDC and the formation of PMC has left the people concerned with the field of medicine in shock and frenzy.
What is PMC?
SAPM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza says PMC will improve medical education in the country and bring the practicing doctors to the level of international standards with an improved mechanism for medical licensing, education and examination system.
Pakistan Medical Commission consists of three sections: PMDC, National Medical and Dental Academic Board and National Medical Authority. In the newly passed ordinance, the PMDC will be responsible to devise new policies; NMDB will decide standards for licensing, medical education and examinations whereas National Medical Authority will be responsible to implement policies devised by PMDC.
According to the new ordinance, a single entrance test will be conducted throughout the country for admission in medical colleges and the doctors will have to pass National Licensing Examination (NLE) to start practicing medicine applicable from March 2020.
The new ordinance, in simpler words, gives more authority to private medical colleges that they were already enjoying unofficially under the rule of PMDC. Over 150 medical colleges in Pakistan now will be able to fix fees of their own choice. They will also be free to choose the university they want to be associated with and can take necessary tests to grant admission to the new coming students.
Only time will tell if the PMC works well or it turns out to be just another attempt in vain to regulate the health sector.