Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cuban-educated doctors resume agitation

Cuban-educated doctors resume agitation

ISLAMABAD: Doctors who studied and trained in Cuba resumed their
agitation on Monday for recognition after rejecting the Pakistan Medical
and Dental Council's offer that they retrain at home for one year before
being allowed to practice medicine in the country.

After the talks with the PMDC broke down, scores of them stormed out of
the regulatory authority's office and roamed on Islamabad streets,
demanding that the PMDC recognise their Cuban MBBS degree unconditionally.

PMDC Registrar retired Brig Dr Hafizuddin Ahmed Siddiqui told Dawn that
the council would meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue. A representative
of the Higher Education Commission has also been invited to the meeting,
he said.

"We believe that the Cuban graduates are very good in theoretical study
but are weak in clinical work. So it is suggested that they repeat house
job. However, the final decision will be made in Tuesday meeting," he said.

In all, 930 such doctors have been in limbo since their return from Cuba
over a year ago.

Cuba had offered them free education to cement the goodwill its corps of
doctors had earned in providing medical relief following the devastating
2005 earthquake, which killed over 70,000 people and injured several
times more in northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.

For over a year, they had been agitating that the PMDC issue them the
Registration of Medical Practitioner (RMP) certificate to practice as

On Monday, some 150 of them took the demand to the current interim
management of the PMDC, which asked them to send three representatives
to negotiate the issue.

One of the representatives, Dr Imran Shahzad, later told Dawn that they
were received by Dr Abid Farooqi, a member of the interim management

"Dr Farooqi told us that the PMDC is ready to issue them the
registration certificate for one year to work under some senior doctor.
We discussed the offer with other colleagues who rejected it calling it
nothing but House Job," he said.

So all of them decided to continue the protest 'until the issue is
resolved' and reached the square in front of the parliament house.

Opposition MNA Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and PTI central leader Fauzia Kasuri
joined them to show solidarity with the protesting doctors who dispersed
in the evening, announcing that on Tuesday they would stage the protest
outside the PMDC office.

One of them, Dr Ashfaq Ahmed, told Dawn that before returning to
Pakistan the Cuban graduates had approached the PMDC to allow them to do
the house job at home but they were directed to do that in Cuba.

"Everyone of us spent seven years in Cuba for our MBBS degree, with all
expenses paid by the Cuban government," he said. The government of
Pakistan had to pay nothing for our education, he added.

"We spent the first year learning Spanish language, the next five years
for the MBBS degree and the last one year in house job in Cuba," added
Dr Ashfaq who came from D.G. Khan.

But on returning home with the MBBS degree from the Latin American
Medical School, the Cuban graduates found that instead of issuing them
the RMP certificate, the PMDC demanding they clear National Examination
Board (NEB) exam first, he said.

PMDC conducts the NEB test for foreign graduates to evaluate whether
they received quality education and are capable to practice medicine in

Dr Ashfaq claimed that a large number of doctors who did their MBBS in
China and Russia failed the NEB exam despite many attempts.

"On the other hand, over 80 per cent of Cuban graduates cleared all
three parts of NEB in first step. Now PMDC is saying the Cuban graduates
should repeat their house job," he said.

"It is strange. We are allowed to practice in Cuba and over 30
countries, including Argentina, Spain, Venezuela and Chile, but not in
Pakistan. Some of the 930 Cuban graduates have already left the
country," he said.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, who was instrumental in sending them to Cuba,
says the PMDC is raising "bureaucratic hurdles" in their way.

"Cuba has the best medical system in the Third World," he told Dawn.
"Their medical system is even better than some developed countries. We
are fortunate that we have Cuban graduates in Pakistan. Moreover, all
the students were selected on merit so they are already very competent,"
he said, fearing the PMDC hurdles would lose the country skilled and
trained doctors.

"I will raise the issue in the Senate because ultimately it is the
people of Pakistan who will suffer," he said.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2015

Source: Cuban-educated doctors resume agitation - Newspaper - DAWN.COM -

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