Pakistani medics get big relief as KSA, Gulf states revalidate MS, MD, and MDS degrees

Pakistani medics get big relief as KSA, Gulf states revalidate MS, MD, and MDS degrees

KARACHI: Pakistani doctors get a major relief as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have restored the eligibility of Pakistan's MS (Master of Surgery), MD (Doctor of Medicine), and MDS (Master of Dental Surgery) postgraduate medical degrees for jobs after an eight-year hiatus.

These degrees are now recognized as equivalent to the Fellow of College of Physicians and Surgeons (FCPS) and Membership of College of Physicians and Surgeons (MCPS). This landmark decision follows extensive advocacy by the Association of University Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (AUPSP), culminating in a visit by a delegation to the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS) for negotiations.

As a result of this decision, thousands of Pakistani doctors working in hospitals and medical institutions across Arab countries can continue their employment. Approximately 4,500 doctors who were previously asked to resign or face deportation due to the delisting can now resume their professional duties in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The successful negotiations, marked by the SCFHS's recognition of the qualifications after reviewing extensive documentation, have reversed the 2017 delisting that impacted over 4,000 Pakistani doctors working in Gulf states.

Contributions from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh were instrumental in achieving this milestone.

In a conversation with Medical News, Dr. Asad Noor Mirza, secretary general of the AUPSP, backed the ongoing efforts to establish a National Inter-University Medical Board to further support the country’s medical professionals. This reinstatement enables Pakistani specialists to once again serve in the top tiers of healthcare in Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf countries, he added.

The affected doctors have accused CPSP delegations of hatching a conspiracy against Pakistan’s postgraduate medical education and degree programs by presenting wrong facts about the country’s university programs to maintain a monopoly on the CPSP-sponsored FCPS qualification. This situation led to significant professional setbacks for several doctors.

Dr Mirza reiterated the association’s commitment to enhancing the reputation of Pakistan’s medical education internationally. He mentioned that the establishment of the National Inter-University Medical Board will centralize clinical education and align it with international standards, further enabling Pakistani specialists and consultant doctors to serve in prestigious positions in Saudi Arabia.

He also lauded the then education minister Rana Tanveer for supporting the efforts and facilitating the visit of a high-level delegation to Riyadh under the SCFHS's invitation.

He says that in 2017, the Saudi health ministry had rejected Pakistan’s MS/MD degrees, citing the lack of a structured training program, which is mandatory for hiring medics for high-level positions. This decision was followed by similar steps from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, affecting many doctors who had been recruited by the Saudi health ministry in 2016. The initial rejection had caused embarrassment for Pakistan as the same degree programs from India, Egypt, Sudan, and Bangladesh were accepted in Saudi Arabia and other countries, he added.

Dr Mirza says this reinstatement marks a significant victory for Pakistani medical professionals, restoring their eligibility to contribute to the healthcare sector in the Gulf region.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) says, "We are not discriminating between FCPS and MD or MS programs. All programs and degrees are equal and recognized by PMDC. There is no discrimination from PMDC's side."

Regarding the recognition of programs from Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University, he said a case has been moved to the concerned ministry for approval, and a decision will be made soon. The spokesperson further claimed that the recognition of MS and MD programs by Saudi Arabia showed improvement in Pakistan’s medical education sector, which is commendable. He said the Saudi regulator recognized these programs and that the government of Pakistan has not written any letters regarding this issue.