LAHORE - Quacks continued to play havoc with public health, in some cases with the patronage of qualified doctors, as anti-quackery campaign has yet to yield desired results.

Though Punjab Healthcare Commission had sealed around 7,000 quackery outlets across the province and almost the same number of businesses had also been shut down by owners at own due to fear of action, the situation has not improved significantly.

The PHC had admitted before the Apex Court in April 2018 that over 80,000 quacks were operating in Punjab. These centres were identified during census of the healthcare establishments rendering services of varying natures and disciplines. The CJP had taken suo motu notice of death of a woman after a quack administered her wrong injection in the Kahna locality of Lahore.

The PHC chief admitted presence of 13,000 quacks in Multan, 14,500 in Sahiwal, 14,000 in Lahore, 9,000 in Bahawalpur, 10,000 in Rawalpindi, 8,000 in Dera Ghazi Khan and 22,500 in Faisalabad. He informed the court about hurdles in carrying out operation against quacks.

After hearing the arguments, top jurist ordered elimination of quackery in Punjab, with directives to the police to support the PHC. The CJP also restrained all courts from issuing orders against the PHC.

Since April 2018, the PHC teams had visited 22,799 treatment centres identified in earlier census. According to official figures, 897 quackery outlets had been closed down in Lahore, 516 in Faisalabad and 448 in Gujranwala during the period.

Fearing action of PHC, quacks running clinics on prominent places had shifted businesses to narrow streets in congested localities.

At least 25 per cent of the quacks in major cities including Lahore are continuing businesses with the patronage of qualified doctors registered with the Pakistan Medical and dental Council (PMDC) and PHC. These quacks are either paying to doctors on monthly basis for sharing PMDC registration or acting as referral centres for authorized clinics.

The PHC Act 2010 defines a quack as somebody who pretends as a healthcare provider without either being registered with PMDC, the National Council for Tibb, the National Council for Homeopathy or the Pakistan Nursing Council.

Family physicians running clinics in different areas have given varying views on impact of anti quackery campaign. Some termed the campaign partial success while suggesting massive crackdown to eliminate the menace. Others say that the exercise was futile as quacks were still continuing businesses without any fear due to friends in the PHC and medical community.

“Anti quackery campaign has not yielded desired results as the menace still existed. The campaign has led to closure of main gates of quackery outlets. These are operating through backdoors for specific duration after due consultation with PHC officials. This consultation is definitely not free. Influential quacks are continuing playing with the health of the masses by displaying registration of qualified friends. In return, these qualified doctors are getting share on monthly basis. These quacks are also helping qualified doctors by referring complicated cases”, said Dr Abdul Rauf, office bearer of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Equity. He said that quacks running clinics on prominent places had shifted businesses to congested localities.

“Operation in congested localities is difficult. Quacks usually get prior information of raid that help them close the businesses for a time being. These clinics reopen soon after departure of raiding teams”, he said, adding, quacks were also providing home service on a phone call.

“Home service on a phone call is also available not only in congested localities but also in several posh areas,” said Dr Abdul Rauf, adding, the campaign has only caused quacks to fine tune methods for running their businesses. 

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Prevalence of quackery is much higher than all estimates. Anti quackery campaign has slightly improved the situation.

“Closing of merely 7,000 quackery outlets is not enough. PHC has claimed existence of 65,000 hard core quacks in the province. More than 40,000 quacks are running clinics in Lahore alone. Northern Lahore is hub of quacks posing as physicians, bone setters, hakims, homeopathic doctors. Most of the medical stores are housing quacks for administering injections and prescribing medicines”, said a family physician running clinic in Misri Shah who wanted not to be named due to the fear of influential quacks with strong family background and political influence. He said that the government has already excluded Lady Health Visitors (LHVs), CMWs and dispensers from the scope of anti quackery drive.

“Dispensers can dispense medicines. He can’t prescribe medicines. These (LHVs and CMWs) can only prescribe folic acid or multi vitamins for pregnant women. Their job is to refer the pregnant woman to qualified doctor for delivery. They can’t handle case at own but it is a routine for them,” he said.