Hundreds of doctors holding postgraduate degrees from Pakistan have reportedly been sacked from their posts in Saudi Arabia. The news began circulating on various media outlets this month and recently the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has taken notice of it.
In a tweet on Friday he said the ministry of health has contacted Saudi authorities to get to the bottom of the matter. He said that once the facts of the investigation are uncovered and verified, remedial actions will be taken in cooperation with the Saudi government.
Dr Mirza added that the government of Pakistan extends its full support to overseas doctors in this difficult time. He said he had directed the health ministry to facilitate the doctors as soon as possible.
On August 7, a Dawn report stated that Saudi Arabia along with a few other Arab countries including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have stopped recognising Pakistan’s Master of Surgery (MS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree programmes.
Following the development, hundreds of doctors who had received their postgraduate degrees from Pakistan had their job contracts terminated in Saudi Arabia and were asked to leave, according to the report.
The Saudi health ministry said that Pakistan’s MS and MD programmes lacked structured training that was necessary for their medical posts.
“Your application for professional qualification has been rejected. The reason is that your master degree from Pakistan is not acceptable according to the SCFHS regulations,” read a termination letter from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.
The doctors had been hired after a round of interviews from major cities in Pakistan by the Saudi health ministry in 2016. One of the doctors said that the Arab countries recognised the same degree from India, Egypt, Sudan and Bangladesh, but not from Pakistan.
The MS/ MD degree programme is a five-year, level-III research and clinical qualification awarded by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. The programme began in 1914 and official statistics show that 4,440 professionals with the postgraduate qualification are working in various public and private institutions of Pakistan.
Health Secretary Momin Ali Agha and officials of the Pakistan Medical Association have termed the recent development disturbing and said that the postgraduate programme offers structured training on par with international standards.