Private medical colleges’ fee-hike hits a snag

ISLAMABAD: The students of private medical colleges may take a sigh of relief as the government is reluctant to issue notification regarding the annual fee increase in private sector medical colleges from Rs6.42 lac to Rs8 lac.

Well-placed sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination delayed the recommendations of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) to increase the fee of private sector medical colleges for the time being due to mounting pressure from various quarters as well as the procedural complications.

They said that the private colleges could only be allowed to increase their fee after fulfilling the required criteria, according to which all the private sector medical colleges can just increase fee up to Rs8 lac, provided that the colleges guarantee admissions on merit, improve infrastructure, provide free medical education to five per cent aspirants and submit an affidavit that they will follow the given agreement.

It is pertinent to mention that during the PMDC’s 155th session, with Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar in the chair, the council agreed on a fee of Rs8 lac per annum for admissions starting from session 2017-18, after keeping in mind the annual inflation rate and the fact that the tuition fee of the private medical/ dental colleges had not been increased from the past many years.

The council suggested that the increase of fee will not be more than 7 per cent per annum in this tuition fee agreed for the next five years. PMDC will randomly undertake case studies of few private and public medical/ dental colleges for income and expenses. This study will be based on soliciting audited reports from reputable audit firms of some colleges of each province.

This study may form the basis of chargeable fees for medical/ dental colleges in the coming years.

However, the sources said that it will take time because all the provincial stakeholders and the health ministry had to work on procedural formalities, as well as on exams before making any final decision in this regard. Apart from that, they said that the increase in fee seemed difficult because the medical colleges are hardly fulfilling all the procedural formalities, which are the prerequisite for the fee-hike.

They also said that it was not the sole prerogative of the health ministry to increase the fee as the respective documents regarding recommendation of fee hike had to be sent to the law division and cabinet after the backing of the health ministry for approval.

They were of the view that the amended rules would come into force only if approved and examined by the law ministry and the cabinet, which is less likely.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) strongly reacted to the fee hike recommendations and said that the federal government and the Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutes were behind this unique request, adding that retrospectively no such illogical increase in academic fee has ever happened.

The association also stressed that this increase in yearly fee is being suggested just to authorize, as well as benefit, the private sector medical institutes.

On the other hand, the PMDC claimed that the fees for private sector medical colleges have not been increased over the years and hence they should be increased this time around. The increase has been put into effect for new admissions, along with a seven per cent annual increase for the next five years.

Any private medical institute violating the new structure, or asking for donations or gratifications, would be fined Rs20million or more, while also having 10 per cent of their seats withdrawn for the next 5 years, the council recommended.

During the Senate Standing Committee of National Health Services’ (NHS) meeting, Federal Minister Saira Afzal Tarar, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq and government officials advocated for increasing the fee in private medical colleges, while senators including Committee Chairman Sajjad Hussain Turi, Attique Sheikh, Ashok Kumar and Kulsoom Parveen were not convinced with the argument of the treasury.

Saira Afzal Tarar told the meeting that ministry will negotiate with private medical colleges and try to reach an acceptable solution. She added that the colleges earn extra profits because of loopholes in the policy.

“The reality-based decision of setting the fees of private medical institutions will help in closing the backdoors for the profiteers,” she said.

A senior official in the health ministry said that the proposal to increase the fees is still under consideration because if the private medical colleges are improving their standards they had all the rights to increase their fee under the agreed fee-hike formula.

However, he said that the since many stakeholders are involved in the process, no notification has been issued so far, adding that the matter even could be deferred for a year.

 



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