MDCAT 2020 cancellation was a given as PMC was constituted incorrectly: PMA

KARACHI: Top body of Pakistani doctors has slammed the constitution of the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) and held the “incorrect” formation of the commission responsible for the cancellation of MDCAT 2020.

Speaking to Geo Pakistan on Friday, Pakistan Medical Association General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said the Sindh High Court decision to cancel the Medical & Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) was a given since the commission was constituted “incorrectly”.

“It has many problems – they will come out in the future,” he told the hosts. He also slammed the PMC for failing to constitute a board to administer the MDCAT exam.

“How can you take an exam on November 15 when the board hasn’t been formed?” he asked. “The whole process is strange.”

The PMA secretary-general said the commission would likely appoint board members in a haphazard way in a bid to implement the SHC order. “They will quickly select and submit 10-15 names.”

“Then you have 10 days to make a new syllabus,” he said. “The syllabus outline earlier was unsuitable for the FSC students aspiring to sit in the entry test. They weren’t prepared for it since the syllabus suited some provinces and not others.”

Sajjad said it was ‘unfortunate’ that nothing in the country was being done ‘constructively’. He added that students will lose half of their academic year due to this.

The PMA official said about 15,000 students who have completed MBBS degrees are yet to be registered and are sitting at home due to “all this confusion about regulating body”.

“They were neither registered with PMDC nor PMC,” he said. “All other countries are making use of their medical students amid the coronavirus pandemic while doctors in Pakistan are sitting at home.”

SHC orders PMC to form academic board and authority

On Wednesday, the MDCAT 2020 examinations were cancelled after SHC ordered PMC to form an academic board and examination authority and finalise the syllabus for the MDCAT before asking the candidates to appear for the test.

Following a hearing, the SHC underlined that since the National Medical & Dental Academic Board had not been formed under the Pakistan Medical Commission Act, 2020, the “MDCAT cannot be conducted”.

According to the court ruling, the board will have “the powers to formulate the examination structure and standards for the MDCAT for approval of the Council”.

‘Hardship, distress and uncertainty’

The SHC further criticised a notification issued October 23, 2020, by the PMC regarding the syllabus, in which it said candidates would have the option to mark any questions they believed were beyond the syllabus in an objection form to be provided at the examination center, saying it “created uncertainty and gross confusion and perplexity in the minds of all applicants” and terming it “unreasonable and nonstandard”.

“This is quite a unique idea that every applicant will be provided objection form at the time of entering into examination hall, so first he should be obliged to do audit exercise as to how many questions are out of his syllabus.

“Much time of the candidate would be lapsed and consumed to go through the entire question paper as an examiner and then filling the objection forms.

“No further mechanism has been provided in the above announcement as to how and when the students appearing in the MDCAT will come to know whether objections raised by them were considered and the question considered by them to be outside the identified syllabus have been removed from scoring or not.

“Such unreasonable and nonstandard conditions amount to create hardship, distress and uncertainty amongst the candidates and their future is also on stake unless the proper syllabus is made out by the competent authority with due deliberation and examination of FSC syllabus of the country to make out a common syllabus without any doubts so that the candidates should not be asked to fill objection forms in the examination hall,” the order read.

According to the court, orders issued by the PMC earlier for temporary appointment of members of the National Medical Authority were “beyond the scope and compass of the said transitory provision”.

“The constitution of the commission is provided under Section 3 of the PMC Act 2020. According to sub-section 4 of Section 3 of the Act, the Pakistan Medical Commission is consist of (a) the Medical and Dental Council; (b) the National Medical and Dental Academic Board and (c) the National Medical Authority consisting of members as provided under Section 15,” it said.

“In the absence of a validly constituted National Medical Authority and not constituting the National Medical & Dental Academic Board, the Pakistan Medical Commission is restrained from holding the MDCAT scheduled to be conducted on 15-11-2020.

“However, the competent authority under Sections 10 and 15 of the PMC Act, 2020 shall within 15 days hereof appoint the National Medical & Dental Academic Board and the National Medical Authority in line with the said provisions; thereafter, within 10 days, the National Medical & Dental Academic Board shall review the formulation of the examination structure and standards for the MDCAT and announce common syllabus thereafter MDCAT shall be conducted through National Medical Authority on a date to be fixed and announced afresh at the earliest.

“All applicants who had applied to the PMC and their application forms were accepted before the cut-off date shall be allowed to attend the MDCAT with their same registration and admit cards if any issued to them.”

The Sindh High Court also lambasted the fact that the Board could not be constituted just because there was no representative from the government of Sindh.

“The Sindh Government failed to nominate their representative to the National Medical & Dental Academic Board, and therefore the Board was not constituted. It is beyond comprehension that merely due to no nomination by the Government of Sindh the Board could not be constituted despite it is clearly provided […] that no act done by the Board shall be invalid on the ground merely of existence of any vacancy in or any defect in the constitution of the Board.

Towards the end of its judgement, the court wrote: “The Medical & Dental Council shall make Regulation to set criteria for admission priority in the scenario where marks/score of applicants are the same/equal.”

This article originally appeared on The News International