‘What’s the point of medical school if you’re just hunting for husbands?’

Doctors urge SC to help calibrate the human resource deployment to address shortages.

Our Correspondent August 23, 2012
‘What’s the point of medical school if you’re just hunting for husbands?’


The Pakistan Medical Association requested the Supreme Court on Wednesday to revisit a decision that created an “open merit” system for medical college admissions. As a result of this policy, the country has been churning out far more female doctors than male doctors, but as 75% of the women abandon work after graduating, the healthcare system is suffering. 

In 1991, the Supreme Court abolished the 60:40 ratio for male and female students in medical college admissions. “We had hailed the decision in 1991, but [in hindsight] it seems that it has backfired,” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar at a press conference on Wednesday.

Today, there are not enough doctors to staff rural health centres and basic health units, which are small clinics that are supposed to fill the gap in the countryside where hospitals do not exist. Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and other conflict zones in the country are also short of medical professionals.

The doctors took great pains to clarify that they were not against women attaining a medical education. They merely want for the human resource situation to be calibrated so that staff is deputed where needed instead of there being chronic shortages.

Dr Azhar added that when he started his medical education in 1973, there were 80 girls and more than a hundred boys in his class. “All the men are still working,” even though less boys were admitted than girls.

According to Dr Idrees Adhi, young men are not attracted to the medical profession anymore as women have traditionally outperformed them in academics.

They are also worried about financial uncertainty as government healthcare jobs do not have the safety net of salary and promotion rules. “When they graduate, they [feel that they] are far behind their colleagues who choose commerce or any other field,” he added.

It is no secret that male doctors were moving aboard for better job prospects. “The Middle East and other countries do not need to spend money to produce their own doctors,” said Dr Qazi Wasiq, “as they are getting them from our country.”

He also alleged that private medical colleges in Pakistan were only worried about making a profit instead of ensuring adequate healthcare delivery. “It has become a status symbol for parents to enroll their daughters at private medical colleges, as it makes it easier for them to find a future spouse,” he said. These young women graduate but are then reluctant to work in rural areas. They don’t even like doing night duty, remarked Dr Qaiser Sajjad.

Separate medical colleges for boys

The PMA demanded that the Supreme Court form a committee to work on recommendations to revise the policy.

They suggested that 10 medical colleges should be reserved for boys as there are six medical colleges that are exclusively reserved for girls. They asked the government to improve the service structure for doctors, so that more male students would choose the medical profession and also decide to work inside the country.

“It took us twenty years to see the results of the decision that was taken in 1991, and it will take at least half that time to turn it around to fix the problem. Therefore, the government should wake up right now to address the issue,” said Dr Mirza.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2012.


Noor | 11 years ago | Reply

Mandatory rural service for few years after provision of security & administrative cover to Doctors can make things comfortable.

However, for obvious reasons, the feudal culture has to be limited to their own households beforehand.

Thereafter, even if a female Doctor retires to her married life, she's not wasting, as she will still contribute to our country or humanity, being in a family, though not paid for her professional advices.

Hali | 11 years ago | Reply

People, it does not matter if they serve or not; at least they are getting educated for the good. I used to talk about this with my wife as well early on but then I realized that a MBBS qualified girl getting married would raise her kids to contribute towards our society more than a girl who just did FSc. No offence to anyone but education does not hurt. Girls are there on pure merit and you do not want to disturb the balance created by merit. Might not realise it today because its about our future generation, but changing parameters in the society and trying to mould it has serious repercussions for a much longer term; problems that would take themselves a couple more generations to get solved at the very least.

However, signing a bond for serving at least 5 or 7 years in the country should be necessary and a NOC shall not be issued if someone is moving abroad to take up a job before that. Also include 2-3 years of that in rural areas. All this is only possible if there is a proper service structure and facilities such as housing and transport provided to doctors especially in remote areas. You can not just post a female doctor from Lahore to a village near Multan without giving her housing and transport facilities.

The solution to the Human Resource problems is that we need more hospital, more medical schools and more types of jobs. Even those girls who got married might serve in a less interactive job.

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