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BMC cracks down on quacks

Concerned about the rising number of quacks in the city, civic body will pay clinics a visit to check doctors' qualifications, degrees

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, one of the most pressing health issues in the city is not the number of diseases that have been doing the rounds, but the doctor you have been visiting.

Last Thursday, officials from BMC's health department held a meeting to look at some of the health-related problems that plagued the city in 2011 and will need to dealt with in the coming year. One of the issues raised was the increasing number of quacks in the city. Health officials in the city's wards have now been asked to conduct inspections in various clinics, collect doctor's degrees and registration certificates, to spot quacks.

Confirming the news, Dr EH Bandivdekar, executive health officer of the BMC said, "We had a meeting to discuss various health department-related issues and this was one of the topics."

A health official from the D ward on the condition of anonymity stated that many wards have already started cracking down on quacks.

"We have already collected certificate copies of doctors practising in our wards. We came across a few who were not able to produce any documents, and who seemed suspicious. We have already reported them," he said.

While, this is a welcome move, considering how rampant the issue is, according to some experts cracking down on quacks may not be as easy.

According to a medical officer from the suburbs who requested anonymity, it is easy to identify quacks who do not hold medical degrees.

"What is difficult is identifying the high number of doctors who are trained in a certain branch of medicine, but often practise another, like when a doctor qualified in Ayurveda and Unani medicine also practices Allopathy."

This, he added, will require closer monitoring and meetings with patients. According to the officer, in the inspections so far, they have also caught many quacks who have put up certificates of other qualified medical professionals on their clinic's walls.

Adding more light to the issue of doctors from different branches of medicine practising in one they are not qualified in, Dr Shivkumar Utture, a member of the Maharashtra Medical Council and a former president of the Mumbai chapter of the Indian Medical Association, said, "There are doctors who are qualified to practise homeopathy, but many often combine allopathic treatment when curing patients. There are also compounders, who pose as doctors flaunting Registered Medical Practioner (RMP) degrees, which have long been de-recognised."

According to Utture, the key lies in formulating a law strictly meant to deal with quacks.

"There is the need for an anti-quackery law to be passed at the earliest. With strong punishments this can create fear among quacks," he said. Currently quacks are arrested under acts meant to deal with cheating and magical drugs, all of which are bailable offences.

Dr M Khetrapal, deputy executive health officer, BMC (in charge of training) stated that all wards submit a monthly review to the health department of the BMC over the issue of quacks.

"Bogus doctors are an important issue. The health department regularly conducts inspections to check for such doctors," he said.

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