Pakistan’s government dissolves medical registration body in crackdown on fraud and corruption

Pakistan has abolished its main medical registration body in a move the government says will raise doctors’ standards and stamp out fraud, but opposition parties and doctors say is undemocratic.

The government shocked doctors at the weekend by suddenly dissolving the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and sending police to take over its headquarters.

The PMDC will now be replaced with a new watchdog, the government said, which will enforce higher standards in the country’s private medical colleges.

Doctors leaders have attacked the change however, while opposition parties have said they will try to block it.

Health sources involved in drawing up the new structure alleged the PMDC had become notoriously corrupt, taking kickbacks for good inspections. Critics of the change however alleged it will weaken regulation and was being pushed through by politicians linked to lucrative private medical colleges. The weaker regime would give their colleges a free hand to admit as many high-fee paying students as they want, one senior PMDC source alleged.

Poor quality medical staff and quackery plague Pakistan’s health system, where millions of people cannot access or afford care. Improving standards and increasing the number of staff are seen as key to bolstering the system. But the money involved has seen the system riddled with corruption.

Dr Zafar Mirza, special assistant on health to Prime Minister Imran Khan said the PMDC had been set up in 1962 to register doctors, and its role had become confused as it had moved into regulating them. The body had been unable to keep up with the profusion of new private colleges, he said.

“Now we want to make the council a body to properly regulate medical education and practising standards,” he told the Telegraph.

Another source involved in drawing up the changes said the previous system had been “terribly corrupt”.

He said: “It was manipulated by the politicians. The thieves themselves were the regulators.”

The new regulating body, to be called the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), would be independent and enforce standards for both colleges and graduates, the source said.

A senior PMDC figure however alleged the change had been designed to weaken regulation. “The old PMDC was trying to regulate medical education and inspecting medical colleges so that those not up to the mark could be closed.

He said medical colleges “did not want restriction as far as fees and admissions were concerned”.

“What they want is that there should be no regulation on them.”

PMDC employees have spent the week protesting outside their locked building. Around 220 stand to lose their jobs.

Dr Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, has said the overhaul is undemocratic.

Opposition parties have criticised Mr Khan’s government for bypassing the parliament to enact the change. “This move will further create chaos in an already appalling state of medical system of the country, destroying existing institutions,” said a spokeswoman for the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Source: The Telegraph