Monday, June 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Quackery on the rise in Haryana
From Raman Mohan

HISAR, June 18 — What is common between a “fortified” vitamin B capsule and typhoid? Nothing, you say. Even doctors think so.

But the salesman of a reputed drug company who was flooded with complaints that his company’s new fortified vitamin capsule was ineffective last week discovered a dubious link between the two. His queries revealed that quacks operating in rural areas were interpreting “fortified” “as for typhoid” and prescribing the capsule to typhoid patients.

Shocking though the incident is but quackery is thriving in Haryana, thanks to inadequate government medical facilities and high cost of treatment in private hospitals. The situation has come to such a pass that even matriculates are setting up “clinics” in rural areas.

According to Health Department sources about 30 per cent posts of doctors, nursing sisters and paramedics in state are vacant. Though the district towns and bigger hospitals in subdivisional towns are slightly better placed, scores of community, primary and sub-health centres in Haryana are inadequately staffed. The sources said in many districts particularly in southern Haryana about 50 per cent posts of doctor and other medical personnel have been vacant for years.

A senior Health Department official said while the medical infrastructure in Haryana had grown, the recruitment of qualified and trained staff has not kept pace with it. Most of the staff manage to get postings in urban areas leaving the field open for quacks in the villages. He estimates that the number of quacks has increased ten folds in the last five years.

Reputed nursing homes in urban areas have become training centres for future quacks. Enquiries reveal that these clinics recruit unqualified youth and train them on the job. In a few months they pick up the symptoms and line of treatment of common ailments. They are ready for opening shops in suitable areas in less than a year. In the absence of proper checks, they practise freely often bribing their way to success. During a tour of rural areas in nearby districts The Tribune found that many of these quacks flaunted the names of the hospitals they worked for boldly on the signboards.

The other major reason for this is that proper medical treatment has gone out of reach of the common person over the years. The prices of commonly used medicines have skyrocketed over the past few years and the fees charged by private clinics have increased sharply. Doctors say quacks have played a big role in boosting cost of drugs and treatment.

Dr Inderjit, president of the Hisar district unit of the Indian Medical Association, says that quacks prescribe drugs recklessly without proper diagnosis. They keep changing the line of treatment until hit and trial method cures the patient. This has serious repercussions. Patients develop resistance to drugs and by the time they approach a qualified physician, nothing but the strongest, costliest and latest drugs work on them. That is how quackery has pushed up cost of treatment.

The IMA chief says quacks rarely charge fee for house visits making their treatment available to the patients in their homes. Private practitioners rarely do so and lose their patients to quacks. No wonder, doctors in the cities are finding that more and more of their patients come with camouflaged symptoms making proper diagnosis extremely difficult, he adds.

In addition treating common ailments, many quacks are now venturing into optometry. The Tribune found quacks selling readymade spectacles in several villages of Hisar and Fatehabad districts. While some of these quacks did a cursory check before offering glasses, others simply let their patients try a few spectacles and sold them the one they thought suited them best.

Another lucrative aspect of quackery in Haryana is the de-addiction treatment courses offered for a few hundred rupees. With drug and alcohol addiction on the rise, such treatment attracts parents and relatives of addicts. However, these are rarely successful and the addict just ends up being hooked to another drug which was used to wean him away from his addiction in the first place.

However, perhaps the most dangerous result of widespread misuse of drugs by quacks is the sharp rise in the number of drug resistant tuberculosis. Leading physicians say quacks treated tuberculosis patients in the villages with low cost sub-standard drugs. The microorganism causing tuberculosis develops drug resistance very rapidly to survive. By the time the patients come to specialists, they have developed resistant tuberculosis in which case a cure is almost impossible.

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