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YDA announces anti-PMC march to Islamabad on Oct 14

A group of doctors and staff members protesting outside a hospital. — Online/Raja Asim

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) on Saturday announced it will March to Islamabad on October 14, saying all wings of the association unanimously “reject” the formation of the Pakistan Medical Commission.

The statement came after a meeting held via video link of all the provincial units of the association.

The meeting was attended by presidents and cabinet members of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad.

“The Pakistan Medical Commission is an unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal body,” it was agreed.

According to YDA, the formation of PMC is also “against international law”.

“Licensing bodies around the world comprise stakeholders that are elected,” it stressed.

The doctors’ association said that with the “unorganised” implementation of the new law, “what would have been a bright future for millions of students across Pakistan has been darkened”.

An organised movement against the law was announced in all the provinces of Pakistan, including the pursuance of legal action.

It also announced the formation of student committees at the medical college level.

Doctors from across Pakistan will march to Islamabad on October 14, said YDA, adding that after this, a “full-fledged movement” will be launched in all the major cities of the country.

The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, the Pakistan Medical Association, representatives bodies of health professionals and other associations of medical professionals have already declared the bill passed by the parliament a violation of the Constitution.

The PMC Bill, which was signed into law by the president through an ordinance, was bulldozed by the PTI government during a joint session of the parliament on September 16. The Pakistan Medical Commission has thus replaced the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).

Maintaining that the step to abolish PMDC would cause deterioration in the standard of medical education and create problems for doctors serving abroad, health experts said that apex court had already declared it null and void, but the incumbent government was taking arbitrary and anti-people decisions by using its marginal majority in the parliament.

Last week, Sindh Health Department also opposed the bill, saying that it would turn medical education into a money-minting business and give unlimited autonomy to private medical and dental colleges to fix fees and admit students.

Pechuho terms bill a ‘disaster’

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said the parliament in its joint sitting had passed the PMC bill, which had earlier been rejected by a majority vote in the senate and was voted in when most of the opposition members were not present.

“Other than that, this bill will be a disaster for smaller provinces because it allows private medical colleges and universities to admit students irrespective of their domiciled province.”

Pointing out that a larger number of doctors — around 2,700 — get medical degrees from private colleges and universities, as there was no domicile bar for private institutions under the piece of legislation, the provincial minister said: “Through this bill, most of the seats in Sindh in the private sector will be filled by students from Punjab, and on graduating, these doctors will go back to serve their home province, causing a shortage of doctors in Sindh.”

She further said that under this act the federal government had also notified a Medical & Dental College Admission Test, or MDCAT, for students joining medical colleges and universities.

The entrance tests will be designed by the Centre, based on the federal curriculum, when each province has its own boards and its own curriculum, so this will put the students from the provinces at a disadvantage, she underscored.

“Last year the closing percentage for exams was 93% in Punjab and 73% in Sindh — a difference of 20%, which was even higher for other smaller provinces,” she recalled, adding that private colleges and universities are free to set their own fee structure, which opens the opportunity for the elite and moneyed to have access to professional education irrespective of merit, as private institutions are here to do business.

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