The PMDC Imbroglio


Have you heard of PMDC?
If you are concerned about health and health related issues, then you must have known about the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. It is an authority established under the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council Ordinance 1962 (No XXXII) which has its main office in Islamabad. The first such Council was established in India under the Indian Medical Council Act 1933; this Council in Pakistan was reorganized under a 1951 Act. In 1957, the Sindh and Punjab Medical Councils were merged to form the West Pakistan Medical Council as all provinces in the present Pakistan were merged a year earlier to form one province. The current 1962 law merged the East and West Pakistan Council to form one national council.
All medical practitioners including dentists have to be licensed by it before they can practice in Pakistan. Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are constitutionally not part of Pakistan and the laws of Pakistan thus do not extend to them; the same goes for the Federally and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas. The AJK has its own law on the subject but Gilgit Baltistan continues to lack such a law but doctors continue to practice there licensed by the PMDC when it is legally invalid.
It is PMDC’s job to establish uniform minimum standard of basic and higher qualifications in medicine and dentistry throughout Pakistan. It prescribes the conditions for admission of courses of training; minimum qualification and experience required of teachers for appointment in medical institutions; the standards of examinations. It registers faculty and students of medical institutions and maintains the register of medical and dental practitioners.
As you may see from the above job description, it is an important institution for the medical practitioners as virtually their future remains in the control of this body. However, Pakistan does not have a huge number of doctors and the job to be undertaken by the PMDC is not formidable.
Nevertheless, the body is literally in shambles and infested with immense corruption and paralyzed by immense politicking. You may wonder as to where the money for corruption comes from: it is from inspection and recognition of medical and dental institutions. Education has become a lucrative field in Pakistan and medical colleges make huge amounts of money. It should not then be surprising that the same institutions are willing to dole out whatever is demanded by the concerned authorities in the PMDC in order to get recognition from this body. If the concerned person at the helm of affairs in the Council is corrupt, then the recognition is granted and yet another substandard college comes into existence producing medical practitioners who are not provided standard education. This is a scary thought but this unfortunately is happening.
The PMDC Council is elected. It is only after the intervention of the Supreme Court that the PMDC has recently been able to hold elections. During the tenure of the previous government, the Council was replaced by a caretaker setup in August 2012. Elections to the Council were held in April 2013 but they became hugely controversial and many complained of massive rigging. As happens with such cases in Pakistan, the High Courts of various provinces started to give `stay orders’ or `status quo orders.’ All the litigation and the rigging charges led to paralysis of the PMDC and the energy of all concerned within the Council was spent in defending one’s position rather than serving the people and promoting the quality of health and medical education in the country.
The Council could not be constituted which is the governing body of the PMDC; the office bearers like the President etcetera, could not be elected. The main officer of the organization is the registrar and two individuals claimed to be registrar at the same time for more than 18 months. This impasse did not last for weeks or months but years. The poor employees of the PMDC just looked in helplessness while their bosses fought as if they were in the midst of a world war.
It was only in August 2015 that the Government of Pakistan introduced another Ordinance which dissolved the controversial executive council of PMDC, and a new management committee was named to hold elections for a new executive council. The Ordinance required that the new council should be elected within a period of 120 days.
The sad part is that our Parliament during this crisis failed to do anything substantial to solve the problem. The Senate and National Assembly Committees on Health on several occasions asked the Council from functioning but the Council members paid little heed to their calls. The performance of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination was no different.
Elections have now recently been held for the Council under the August 2015 Ordinance although the ones in Punjab again could not be held due to a stay order granted by the Lahore High Court. One can only hope that the things will improve once the new Council if and when is formed and that it will bring some positive changes in the lives of the poor people of Pakistan.
Opinion of the Shifa News columnists does not necessarily reflect the views of the publication.
The writer is a lawyer at Supreme Court of Pakistan & associated with SPARC, a Child Rights organization

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