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Pakistan Medical Commission creates fund for student loans and grants

ISLAMABAD: After remaining in the limelight over the last few months due to protests and criticism by politicians and the medical fraternity, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has taken some crucial decisions, claiming these are in the best interest of public, students and health professionals.

It said that for the first time in history a fund of Rs250 million had been established so that deserving students of both public and private sector medical and dental colleges could get loans and grants.

A one-time permission has been given to foreign students to start house jobs. Information regarding specialisation of doctors will be publically available and a free community service as penalty has been introduced.

It has been noted that Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) of over 65 per cent of the health practitioners were missing from the database.

According to minutes of a high-level meeting held last week, foreign students have been allowed to start house jobs in Pakistan. The decision has been made in view of the Covid-19 crisis and difficulty in travelling abroad.

Earlier, the commission had divided foreign medical and dental colleges in different categories and it was decided that the students of B category would not be allowed to start house jobs in Pakistan unless the students got the permission/licence from countries from where they had graduated. In December, students had held a number of protests outside the PMC office in this regard.

As a number of health practitioners falsely claim that they have specialisations in different fields, the PMC has decided to launch the Higher Specialist Register to avoid chances of false claims. Information regarding specialist qualifications of health practitioners will be available on a website.

A number of doctors have stopped practising due to different reasons, including for being out of the country but they have to renew their licences after every five years and pay licence-related levy. The PMC has decided that those doctors can declare themselves non-practising professionals and they won’t have to renew their licences. However, they can again declare them practicing whenever they want to start practice again.

It has been decided that the Council will not tolerate practicing without a valid licence and there will be severe penalties, including cancelation or suspension of licences. Moreover, penalties, for minor violation of rules, will also include free-of-cost service in the public sector and low income regions.

The PMC has also decided to introduce Fully Automated Online Application System from next month due to which medical graduates and licensed practitioners will be able to apply online, for licences, addition of qualification and addition of qualification without having to visit any PMC office or bank.

It was noted that CNICs of over 65 per cent health practitioners were missing in the database. So it has been decided to launch online digital profiling and health practitioner will be suggested to create their online profiles, which will be used for the biometric verification through the National Database and Registration Authority and licences will be issued promptly.

Moreover, the Council approved the formation of the first National Medical Scholarship Fund, committing an amount of Rs250 million to the Fund. The Scholarship Fund will be set up as an independent entity, with an independent board under the supervision of the Council. The Fund will seek further grants from the Federal and Provincial Governments as well as the private sector. Annually, the Fund will provide scholarships to students on need basis who have obtained admission to Public or Private Medical Colleges strictly on merit. The financial aid will be in the form of grants and loans or a mix of both. In the future, the Scholarship Fund, based on grants, will also look to fund deserving students for Post-Graduate studies and research in medical education.

“Every year, hundreds of students with high merit are unable to enter medical programmes because of their inability to pay fees for private education. The Council believes these high-merit students from the underprivileged class represent the future of our healthcare and need to be supported,” minutes of meeting state.

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