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A sanctuary for the quacks…Is it?

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Health care is a highly sensitive humanitarian profession, which requires a broad knowledge-base and practical training in human biology, physiology, chemistry, hygiene and surgical skills, driven by a compassionate mindset. Although every competent doctor today is able to earn a handsome remuneration, it was never meant to be a money-making business.

Centuries ago, it emerged as a rudimentary methodology to cure diseases and relieve pain. But with time it has evolved into a cutting-edge science, supported by convergence of diverse technologies and refinement of non-invasive medical relief procedures. These advancements called for numerous regulatory policies that govern the medical profession around the globe. However, this noble profession continues to be abused in Pakistan and many other developing countries, while the naïve and anxious patients are still being viciously exploited.

Only one trip to the Saddar bazaar or Lee Market areas in Karachi, will reveal numerous blatant violations of the healthcare laws that are so elaborately drafted in the books, but rarely implemented on the streets. Walking through the narrow alleys of these old city areas as a pedestrian, one encounters countless un-licensed clinics and fake dentistry experts who are promising quick recovery from serious tooth-aches, ear infections and even serious ailments like diabetes and hepatitis B or C. In reality, most of these quackery dens are filthy, ill-equipped, casual and amateurish enough to transform a simple tooth-ache patient into a Hepatitis B or C victim. Most of the sterilization equipments, if any, are rusted and out of order. So much for disinfection and hygienic precautions!

You may even get an opportunity to walk into that room that they call “Laboratory” – a junk-yard of obsolete equipment and contaminated dental materials, where those artificial teeth and acrylic dentures are being crafted, which will soon become a part of the oral cavities of many unfortunate patients.

If you look around on the clinic walls, you will surely find a Dental College Degree but that qualified doctor is nowhere to be found, except in very rare cases, where he/she appears for only a few hours in a day, while the remaining patients are left at the mercy of a fresh dental grad, a dental technician or a semi-trained intern.  This staff worker is generally a diploma holder, but can be seen performing dental care, scaling, extractions, implants and even root-canal treatment very audaciously. It was also revealed that many of the authentic medical degrees adorning the clinic walls are just hired against a meager rental fee, and the real Doctors have never even stepped into these quackery dens.

The poorest segments of the society, who cannot afford the qualified and experienced dental surgeons operating at one of those clean and well-equipped clinics, can be seen thronging these quackery outlets in those decaying buildings. During recent months, there are news appearing on electronic media about the sales and trading of animal jaws, which are allegedly used for creating human teeth and used as replacements in the poor patients’ dentures.

These observations reflect the poor performance of our elaborately-staffed government Health Departments and Medical Regulatory Bodies, who are drawing hefty salaries and are supposed to work under the guide-lines provided by the annually-elected certification authority – The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. Recently, when a television channel tried to conduct a televised inquiry into this menace of quackery, most of the staff members refused to give any response or the phone numbers of qualified doctors, who are supposedly running these clinics. Infact, during the media’s ethical raid, most of the staff members, hurriedly closed their fake clinics and vanished from the scene.

The PMDC and other regulatory bodies are requested to keep a more vigilant eye and launch a prudent initiative to eliminate these illegal medical practitioners, to safe-guard the health of the common man. With the uncontrolled population growth in the country, our need for safe and effective healthcare on a mass scale is increasing rapidly. We can not afford to provide sanctuaries to these life-threatening ventures any more.

September 3, 2013
Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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