The Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) has sealed 85 clinics and hospitals during its drive against quackery in the province’s Jacobabad, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and Mirpurkhas districts.
The body has issued show-cause notices to 295 other such establishments to explain their positions, warning them with permanent shutdown, as it is preparing to expand the campaign to Karachi in a couple of weeks, with District South being on the top of the list.
“These so-called clinics and hospitals were known as ‘death centres’, but their owners were so influential that they continued operating despite killing hundreds of people in the name of medical treatment,” SHCC Chairman Dr Tipu Sultan told a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Monday.
“We have permanently closed them down,” he said, “and we will not allow even a single quack to practise medicine and surgery anywhere in the province.” Dr Sultan said that 295 centres have been asked to explain their positions and prove their registrations with the relevant councils or they will also be closed down. He added that heavy fines were also imposed on the establishments that had employed quacks as medical practitioners.
Claiming that Karachi is the hub of quackery where thousands of quacks are playing havoc with the lives of the people as doctors, homeopathic practitioners and hakims, the SHCC chief said they have completed the mapping of the city’s South district.
“According to law, we have two mandates: registration, licensing and accreditation of health care facilities, and taking action against quacks. We are doing both the jobs simultaneously,” he informed the media.
“We have received over 4,500 applications and we have registered 3,493 facilities, while 40 others have been issued with provisional licences,” he said, adding that action against quacks is also in full swing.
Responding to a question, he said the relevant law defines a quack as a person who has no education of medicine or surgery but practises medicine and performs surgeries, adding that the definition also covers homeopaths and hakims prescribing allopathic medicines.
Describing the SHCC’s complaint mechanism, the body’s CEO Dr Minhaj Qidwai said they took action against both public and private hospitals after investigations proved wrongdoing on their part. He added that they are about to seal a Karachi hospital for criminal negligence during a patient’s treatment.
“We have received 30 complaints against health care facilities and medical practitioners, and taken action on 16 of them,” he said, adding that in one case they even asked a facility to compensate the attendants of a patient who had died during treatment but the hospital continued charging them.
Ayaz Mustafa, the director of the SHCC’s Anti-Quackery Directorate, said that social will and support from society, including the law enforcement agencies, judiciary, civil administration and media, is required during the campaign against quacks. He urged the media to highlight the major centres of quackery across the province so that action can be taken against them.
Answering a query, Dr Sultan said that due to overlapping in some health areas, including pharmacies and blood banks, they cannot take action against them, but the commission has asked the Sindh Health Department to resolve this issue so that the people can be also saved from the quacks there.
“If an illiterate person is giving medicines to people at a pharmacy, he is a quack too, but the law states that action against him will be taken by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and the provincial drug administration,” he said.
“Similarly, if there is a blood bank being run by an unauthorised person, action against it can only be taken by the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority. We have put these matters before the health department to resolve them.”