MURREE: Quacks have been operating freely in almost all of Murree Town, with more than 50 such individuals practicing in Murree city and dozens in rural areas in the absence of effective monitoring by the health department.

A large number of these individuals hold homeopathic medicine certificates and degrees, but openly use allopathic medicine to ‘treat’ patients.

Murree Town is spread over a vast area, from Satra Mile to Kohala in the east and Barriyan to Kotli Sattiyan, with a population of around 500,000.

There is only one Tehsil Headquarters Hospital which caters to the population, including residents of suburban areas such as the Galiyat.

There are some 12 basic health units in various union councils and one rural health centre in Phagwarri, but these are limited to basic facilities.

Some private doctors are operating in the area, but are usually too expensive for average residents.

The limited healthcare facilities at the government level has paved the way for quacks, who people are compelled to see without knowing the repercussions of unhygienic and dangerous treatment they may be provided.

The quacks are mostly unaware or uninformed of the importance of hygiene, particularly when administering injections or sterilising equipment without which viruses can be transmitted from one patient to another and epidemics can spread.

Some quacks have even advertised on roads and are practicing in areas such as Ghulehrra Gali, New Murree, Dewal, Jhika Gali, Barriyan and in smaller villages.

Locals said retired hospital laboratory and other attendants have been treating locals in rural areas, with some untrained women even providing maternity services and abortions.

Although the historic tuberculosis hospital in Samili was recently declared a general hospital by Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid, the required facilities and medicines have yet to be provided.

When contacted, Murree Deputy District Officer Health Dr Azhar Mehmood Abbasi said that no doctor can practice without registering with the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC), a government regulator.

He said seven illegal clinics in UC Charehan, Angoori and other areas were sealed and a number of fake doctors were fined and the cases were sent to the PHC.

He said that if a degree or certificate is found to be dubious, cases are transferred to the PHC for investigation and action.

Dr Abbasi accepted that there were many clinics run by quacks, but added that action is taken promptly when a complaint is received.

He said that legal clinics are also examined from time to time, and if not found to meet hygiene standards are issued notices and fined.

He said that an awareness campaign is also needed at the public level to tell people not to visit quacks and visit government health centres and hospitals instead.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2019