CJP warns private medical colleges against becoming business enterprises

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  • Justice Nisar says private medical colleges will be regulated at all costs, vows to visit all such institutions
  • Rejects criticism of visit to hospitals, says it’s his constitutional right 

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday said that the Supreme Court doesn’t want to shut down private medical colleges as they do share the burden of the public sector, but said “these institutions should not turn into business organisations either”.

The CJP said this while presiding over a three-member bench that is hearing an appeal moved by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) against the Dec 7, 2017, order of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to dissolve the council and strike down the PMDC’s admission regulations which it introduced for a ‘merit-based admission process’ in 2016.

Chief Justice Nisar, however, made it clear that private medical colleges would be regulated even if he had to get involved personally.

“Do not think that only a few medical colleges will be inspected,” he said. “This process will be ongoing and I will personally visit each and every medical college. I will go wherever there is an issue of basic human rights.”

Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions’ counsel Barrister Ali Zafar reminded the court of Pakistan’s shortage of physicians, saying: “In Pakistan, we have only 164,000 registered doctors whereas our need is of 500,000.”

To this, the chief justice responded: “We need 500,000 doctors, not quacks. We need expert surgeons who can operate, not the kind that abduct addicts from Data Darbar and sells their kidneys to the Arabs.”

“To overcome such malpractices you need to help us,” the CJP added.

Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali told the court that the federal government had taken notice of the court’s proceedings and that legislation in this regard was being considered.

“I briefed the federal cabinet on the PMDC Ordinance and medical colleges in Wednesday’s session,” the AGP informed the court, adding that the government will take important decisions on this matter during its joint session. At this, the CJP said: “This case was in high court for several months but the government only sprang into action when it reached the SC.”

“Parliament is a supreme organisation. Legislation is its domain only. We cannot set a time limit for the parliament to legislate within,” said the CJP.

The SC, under its 2018 agenda, is focusing on human rights issues, particularly those relating to the people’s right to quality education and healthcare. However, this course of action is also being seen as an overstepping of boundaries, similar to the Iftikhar Chaudhry era.

However, the chief justice has stood by the court’s actions, reiterating that such criticism will not deter him from exercising what he considers is his “constitutional right”.

“There was a lot of criticism over my visit of Mayo Hospital,” the chief justice recalled. “But I haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes. I am operating within the authority given to me under the Constitution. These measures of mine shouldn’t be considered interference with anyone’s authority. This is my constitutional right.”

“I will visit every medical college and those with inadequate facilities will be closed down,” warned the CJP.  “This is a matter of citizens’ health. I will keep visiting hospitals,” he added.

The bench later adjourned the hearing until Friday.

On Dec 19, Chief Justice Nisar alongside Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Umar Ata Bandial paid an official visit to Mayo Hospital in Lahore and reviewed the situation of healthcare being provided to patients.

The CJP visited the emergency ward, surgical tower, Garhi ward and other departments of the hospital and directed the relevant authorities to make sure that highest quality of healthcare was provided to all citizens.

Upon coming to know of lack of clean drinking water in the hospital, Justice Nisar ordered the hospital administration to install a water filtration plant. He also talked to patients and inquired if they were satisfied with the situation in the hospital.