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Last Updated : Aug 11, 2019 01:48 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Why it is important to train and regulate quacks, rather than banishing them

It is estimated that there were around 3.5 lakh people who practice medicine without formal training

Viswanath Pilla @viswanath_pilla

Last week, the government officially confirmed that around 57.3 percent of those practising allopathic medicines in India did not have any medical qualification.

The government confirmed this figure in a clarification issued by Press Information Bureau (PIB) under frequently answered questions (FAQ).

The Times of India had reported that this figure was based on a WHO report from 2016 on Indian health force. Then Health Minister JP Nadda had denied the WHO report, calling it as “erroneous”.

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This figure assumes significance at a time when doctors nationwide have hit the streets protesting against Section 32 of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill. The NMC Bill proposes to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission -- a central authority responsible for regulating medical education in the country.

But, it is the loosely defined Section 32 that allows "mid-level" community health workers to practice modern medicine following a bridge course has become the bone of contention.

Doctors allege that the provision will institutionalise quackery. Doctors who spend years to study medicine are concerned that this will become a backdoor entry of people for unqualified or partially qualified people to practice allopathy medicines while those qualified may end up as unemployed.

It is estimated that there were around 3.5 lakh people who practice medicine without formal training. Most of these people are assistants to doctors, lab technicians, midwives, chemists, and practitioners of traditional systems of medicines such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani.

Why can't we better regulate quacks?

It is not easy to banish all quacks. After all, a large number of them exist because they a serve a purpose. They deliver health care to people who cannot afford it or living in urban slums, rural and tribal areas where public healthcare access is a major problem.

But, the priority of the government should be on how to regulate, monitor and train these quacks.

Section 32 of NMC Bill opens up this opportunity. This is not the first time that we are trying to use the potential of community health workers. There are countries that have done this. Even in India, some efforts have gone into this.

The Wire, in 2015 had reported about a programme run by West Bengal-based non-governmental organisation Liver Foundation. The programme aims to teach the quacks about the basics of medicine, from human anatomy to pharmacology, giving them the theoretical knowledge that they lack. They programme also teaches them how to treat acute cases of common illnesses, and help them judge when their patients need to see real doctors.

The training also tells them the about no-go areas like prescribing Schedule H and Schedule X drugs, and greatly limiting the use of antibiotics.

Section 32, success depends on regulating and training quacks, rather than becoming a lateral entry scheme to dilute modern medicine.

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First Published on Aug 11, 2019 01:48 pm
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