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May 13, 2019

350 healthcare establishments run by quacks sealed after HIV outbreak


May 13, 2019

Urging the Sindh health department to screen all the staff of healthcare establishments (HCEs) in the province for HIV, hepatitis B and C and other infectious diseases, the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) has asked the authorities to ensure that healthcare providers employed at the government-run hospitals and facilities are available during their duty hours so that people could visit these facilities instead of approaching quacks for their healthcare needs.

“We have recommended the government to screen all the staff of healthcare establishments in the province for HIV, hepatitis B and C and other infectious diseases after one of the doctors was found infected with HIV in Larkana, who was involved in unsafe medical practices and was using one syringe and IV drip for multiple times,” said Dr Ayaz Mustafa, director of anti-quackery of the SHCC, while talking to The News on Sunday.

In the wake of a latest HIV outbreak in the Ratodero taluka of Larkana, where 337 people including 312 children have been found infected with the lethal viral infection since April 2019, healthcare commission authorities have launched a province-wide crackdown against quacks after it was learnt that reuse of syringes and multiple time usage of intravenous Solution drips by quacks were the main source of the spread of the HIV infection among the people.

The Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) on Sunday said they had so far sealed 350 healthcare establishments, both clinics and laboratories, in the province, while over 50 clinics had been issued with warnings to improve their infection control and meet other requirements. It said action on the ground was underway as anti-quackery teams were visiting small clinics as well as so-called hospitals in Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur divisions and sealing facilities being run by quacks.

Sindh Health Secretary Saeed Awan has already called for sending quacks behind bars for the rest of their lives, saying quackery is a “bailable” offence in Pakistan if any quacks is booked under existing laws. He says that unless strict measures are adopted, quacks will continue to spread death and incurable diseases among people.

Action sought

SHCC authorities said the majority of the clinics and healthcare establishments being run by the quacks in the province were in the names of registered medical practitioners, who were mostly government employees but had rented out their clinics or even their documents to quacks, who were playing with the lives of people without any fear of law.

“We have discovered a another form of quackery, which we have declared as rent-seeking quackery where a registered medical practitioner, usually an employee of the health departments, rents out his name, private clinic or even his document to a quack, who uses the name of the registered medical practitioner to see patients and prescribe them medicines, inject them with IV medications and solutions,” Ayaz Mustafa said.

In some cases, Dr Mustafa disclosed, even registered medical practitioners came for the rescue of quacks and argued with the Sindh Health Carfe Commission staff, saying quacks were paramedical staff and they were giving medicines on directives from them.

“In these circumstances and keeping in view the case of a doctor who himself was found infected with HIV, we have recommended the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) to screen all the staff of healthcare establishments for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other infectious diseases as it is highly likely that a large number of these people could also be carriers and would be transmitting the lethal diseases to their patients knowingly or unknowingly,” Dr. Mustafa added.

In its Anti-Quackery Report submitted to the Sindh Health Department, the SHCC has also demanded of the authorities to ensure the availability ofregistered healthcare providers at their jobs during duty timings to ensure that people visit the government-run facilities and avail healthcare services from qualified doctors instead of visiting the quacks.

Infectious disease experts have already proposed a complete ban on the use of injections and IV drips at small clinics by the general practitioners after it was learnt that reuse of syringes was the most probable source of spreading HIV infection among hundreds of children in the Ratodero area of Larkana.

A day earlier, Director General Health Sindh Dr Masood Solangi told The News that reuse of syringes had emerged as the major source of infection among children in Ratodero, Larkana. He said a proposal to take action in this regard was under consideration.

“At the moment, an investigation is underway but infectious disease experts and epidemiologists are suggesting that reuse of syringes could be the main source of spreading HIV,” Dr Solangi maintained.

Solangi also called for imposing a ban on the production of large injection vials by the pharmaceutical companies, saying that quacks and untrained doctors use these large vials for extracting medicine for several patients and infect the medicine, which could also be source of spreading HIV, Hepatitis and other infectious diseases to the patients.