Allied health facility faces closure
LAHORE, Dec 28: The all-important Allied Health Sciences programme is facing uncertain future as 11 of the 18 public and private medical and dental institutions all over the province have discontinued admissions to 19 AHS courses, it is learnt.
The other state-run institutes affiliated with the University of Health Sciences also are considering the same step as they have intimated the varsity management about their inability to continue programmes due to “unavoidable circumstances”.
It will jeopardise the future of those high-merit medical students who want to join the profession after failure to get admission to MBBS due to various reasons, a senior official privy to the development told Dawn.
He said the Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Lahore and the Nishtar Medical College, Multan were among the institutions which had discontinued the admissions without prior intimation to the UHS management.
The official said the AHS programme had been restricted to the private institutions only, which had excessive fee structure ranging annually between Rs80,000 and 125,000 compared to the charges of the state-run institutions from Rs6,000 to 8,000.
He said while launching the first phase of the programme in 2007, the government had allowed 1,100 admissions to the courses for different disciplines in the medical colleges in Punjab and approved Rs40 million funds. Surprisingly, the funds were never released and this was one of the major reasons behind the “possible closure” of the scheme under which the public medical and dental institutions were
allowed 20 to 25 admissions and private colleges, 10, the official said.
He also claimed that the ‘mindset’ of the senior faculty (teaching the MBBS/BDS students) was another reason as they were not ready to accept the AHS students in “white uniform” and wanted their “separate identity and faculty”.
He said in the later phases the federal government was to be approached for the constitution of a “central regulator/accreditation authority like the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council” to facilitate international recognition of the integral AHS programme.
“Owing to a lack of funds and little interest by the government, all alternative avenues for the smooth running of the programme, including efforts to seek intervention of the Higher Education Commission, the WHO and philanthropists, could not be materialised,” the official regretted.
The SIMS had stopped admissions to BSc Medical Imaging Technology, BSc Medical Laboratory Technology and BSc Operation Theatre Technology.
The Nishtar Medical College, Multan refused to admit students to several programmes like BSc Emergency & Intensive Care Technology, BSc Medical Imaging Technology, BSc Medical Laboratory Technology, BSc Optometry and BSc Dental Technology. De’ Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore did not even start admissions to BSc Dental Technology and BSc Dental Hygiene.
The Quaid-i-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur stopped admissions to Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), the Institute of Public Health, Lahore to BSc Medical Laboratory Technology, and the Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad to BSc Medical Imaging Technology.
The official said the step by the health institutions came at a time when the healthcare system was facing dearth of allied health experts whose functions were being performed by skilled but non-qualified paramedics.
Talking about the importance of education in the AHS, the official said it provided qualified manpower for essential functions of laboratory diagnosis, radio-diagnosis, rehabilitation of patients, and use of advanced technologies such as nanotechnology, laser technology and biotechnology etc.
The Punjab government in collaboration with the UHS had launched 17 new BSc (Hons) courses besides two five-year programmes including Pharm D and DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy).
The initiative was taken keeping in view the global importance of allied health sciences and to replace the paramedics by the qualified allied health ‘scientists’. The scheme was also meant to accommodate those students who failed to get admission to MBBS in government and
private colleges due to difference of meagre ratio of aggregate scores.
UHS spokesman Muhammad Atif said the varsity management was in contact with the authorities concerned to run this most integral programme at any cost. He said the issue would be raised during the coming meeting of the Board of Governors.