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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, while raising questions on the medical test conducted by the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) on MDCAT, recommended that the test may be re-conducted without any additional charges, and those responsible for the misconduct of the test be put to task.

The meeting of the committee was held with acting chairperson Dr Mehr Taj Roghani in the chair here on Tuesday.

Dr Mehr Taj Roghani informed the participants of the committee that Chairman Committee Dr Muhammad Hamayun Momand is out of the country and has therefore requested her to chair the meeting.

The chair took up agenda-wise points in the meeting.

The committee offered fateha for late Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and paid rich tribute to the services rendered by the iconic hero and "Mohsin-e-Pakistan".

The committee raised question on the medical test conducted by the PMC on MDCAT. The committee inquired that the misconduct in the test exam has caused depression and mental stress in the students who studied day in and day out for the test.

"Simply saying that the students have the right to review and it was some computer generated mistake is not fair with the students" said Senator Rubina Khalid, while showing resentment on the system of the PMC.

"It is not a game but, it is the future of the children. What is the guarantee that the marks will be given in a fair manner now," she said.

It was informed that the test was conducted for 200,000 students. The committee also inquired name of the company which conducted the test.

The officials informed that the test was conducted by "Teps Company".

The committee also asked as to why the test was outsourced and sought a report on its tender notice and short listing of the companies.

The committee received a detailed briefing from the National Institute of Rehabilitation Management (NIRM), Islamabad, on their functioning, performance and plans for further improvement. While discussing the role and functions, the committee was informed that the NIRM provides long-term rehabilitation and treatment, but it is not an acute care facility and do not have an emergency cell.

The committee raised question on whether or not an emergency department should be established in the NIRM. The officials of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination said that emergency deals with the treatment of trauma.

The NIRM comes into play when a patient remains unstable after the emergency period. It was also added by the ministry officials that there are other hospitals handling the emergency and the Institute should remain focused on rehabilitation.

Senator Rubina Khalid also re-emphasised the fact that focus should be on rehabilitation, as it will play a vital role in saving the lives of the people. Senator Khalida Ateeb inquired about the timings of the specialist attending the hospital. It was observed by the committee that doctors visit the hospital between 9:00am-11:00am, that too once a week.

"How come they visit once a week when long queues of patients waiting to see them all day long?" asked Senator Khalida Ateeb.

The NIRM official resisted answering this question.

Senator Fawzia pointed out that the objective of raising such questions is to address the grievances of the people, so the officials do not defend such questions. The ministry officials as well as the officials of the NIRM accepted the issue of timings of the specialist, and showed eagerness to probe into the matter

While taking briefing on the radiology services provided by the NIMS it was transpired that MRI facility, even in NIRM was non-functional.

"The Helium dropped three days back," the NIRM officials informed.

"The NIRM lacks MRI services that is why due to work overload it is malfunctioning," they added.

The ministry was informed that the MRI machine was working since 1996, repair work on the machine has started and will take a week's time for the machine to start functioning again.

The NIRM officials also informed that PC-1 for 15 new equipment have been approved, including an MRI machine.

The deadline for the replacement of the MRI machine is 30June 2022.

It was inquired by the committee as to whether there was an emergency budget to cater to such malfunctioning of machines.

The committee members lamented as discussed in the previous meeting that the federal capital is deprived of an MRI in all the major hospitals including Polyclinic, PIMS, and the NIRM, which is not only a matter of disgrace but also a surprise for the residence of no other city but the capital, Islamabad.

The committee was also apprised that the NIRM offer services in speech therapy.

The chair questioned on the number of speech therapist available to which the NIRM officials replied that there are total five qualified speech therapists.

While briefing on the role of social welfare department in protecting the disabled poor from catastrophic health expenditure, the committee was informed that the Zakat funds are allocated annually to the tune of Rs1.5 million.

The committee was also informed that Pakistan Baitul Mal spent millions annually to ease the suffering of disabled patients at the NIRM, to which the chairman committee objected and said that she personally knows two people who demanded grant from the Baitul Mal on cochlear implant surgery and waited for years for its grant and finally became over age for the surgery.

"They even lost a lot of their own money in the process," she dismayed.

The committee was briefed that the NIRM has a total of 315 sanctioned strength.

The salary structure of its employees is admissible in accordance with the National Basic Pay Scale (BPS).

Out of this 315 staff there are 163 gazetted BS-16 officers and above, and 152 non-gazetted from BS-01 to 15. The committee was also informed that in the year 2020-2021, there were 1,151 indoor admissions, 92,184 outdoor patients, and 1,076 surgeries catered by the NIRM.

Mehr Taj Roghani raised question on the difficulties faced by the students studying out of country especially in Central Asia and steps taken by the PMC to resolve their issues.

The chair raised question on the change in university, within six months, by the PMC of those students who came through PMDC programme, somewhere in the middle of their studies tenure, which has ruined the future of these students.

The PMC officials informed the committee that total 63 universities in the Central Asian Countries in category A B and C including Kyrgyzstan having three universities in category A and eight universities in category C.

The committee was informed that recently they received several students studying in Kyrgyzstan, that several Kyrgyz medical colleges were running parallel MBBS programs, six years MD programs, and fiveyears MBBS programs.

The five years MBBS programs were tailored specially for Pakistani and Indian students; their classes are held online and the teachers were hired from Pakistan.

Hospital training is the core element of MBBS training; since the training in the local hospitals was reported to be deficient, the PMC had grave concerns about the quality of graduates returning to Pakistan to treat the Pakistani citizen.

Hence further analysis and up-gradation was halted temporarily in this regard.

The committee was informed the Eurasian Medical University was taken off the PMC list, since they received many complaints that the Pakistani students there wanted to get transferred to a better university and the university was not granting the Pakistani students their due transcripts.

The committee was informed by the PMC officials that they have received the explanation letter as well as the president PMC met with the Ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic on 22 September 2021.

The PMC is currently waiting for the response from the Kyrgyz authorities regarding the matter.

The committee made recommendations that the matter must be taken to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to give relief to the students. The committee also gave recommendations that this issued be resolved at government level, as the future of the students is at stake.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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