The Sindh government has never conducted a survey to ascertain the number of quacks in the province as a senior member of the anti-quackery committee believes there must be millions of such phony medics across the province and tens of thousands in Karachi alone.
The sources in the health department said that it was the responsibility of the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) to conduct a survey to ascertain the number of quacks and where they mostly operate.
The sources have questioned that when the SHCC did not know exactly where the quacks are operational, how would they launch an effective crackdown against them?
Besides, the sources said that the SHCC does not have the power to arrest the quacks who are playing with the lives of people. The SHCC could only impose a fine and seal the place of quacks. They are not empowered to arrest them, the sources added. In a recent 11th meeting of the Anti-Quackery Committee of the SHCC headed by its convener Dr Khalid H. Shaikh, it emerged that some Rs2.3 million fine was imposed on quacks in a recent crackdown at 51 healthcare establishments. The fine was imposed under the SHCC Act 2017 which did not allow the officials of healthcare department to arrest the quacks and prosecute them in court.
The act, however, allowed the Anti-Quackery Committee to impose a fine and raise the amount of fine up to Rs500,000 on all those who repeat the offence, a senior official said.
Furthermore, the sources apprised that the SHCC after sealing the quacks’ healthcare establishments, later on allow them to open them after they deposit the fines imposed on them. They also said that the depositing of fine does not mean that the quacks should be allowed to restart the evil business of endangering the lives of innocent people.
The quacks have made their abodes in the low-income and congested areas like in Korangi, Orangi Town, New Karachi, Surjani Town, Quaidabad, Banaras, Hijrat Colony, Bilal Colony, while they have opened illegal dental and gynaecology clinics in old areas like Lea Market, Lyari, Mauripur, Landhi, Bin Qasim, Manghopir, Malir, the sources claimed.
They said that the illegal healthcare units were instrumental in spreading hepatitis B and C, HIV, AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases. Many people were faced with medical complications due to wrong diagnosis and wrongly prescribed medicines by the quacks.
The convener of Anti-Quackery Committee Dr Khalid H. Shaikh while talking to Bol News said: “The department has been facing severe shortage of manpower as our strength is only 69 staff members who carry out crackdown on quacks, but there are tens of thousands of quacks in the city, so how can the department tackle the volume of work effectively?”.
Dr Shaikh said the process of recruiting more staff members was in progress, and as soon as they are appointed to do the needful, they would be sent to those areas of the province where they are needed.
He reiterated that millions of quacks must be operating in the province, and tens of thousands in Karachi only. The department did not have enough manpower to deal with the menace, he said adding that despite the fact that the SHCC had limited resources and manpower, it was doing the job “diligently”.
When his attention was drawn to the SHCC Act 2017, he said that the act was fine and there was no need to reform it. However, he was concerned about the shortage of manpower. He emphasized that the manpower should be increased to yield desired results.