In the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh, quack doctors are in the firing line as a drive to root them out of practice has been announced.
“A campaign against quacks and non-permitted clinics, nursing homes and hospitals will be initiated soon,” explained Agra’s chief medical officer Mukesh Kumar Vats. “A joint team of the health department, district administration and police will conduct raids on different places on the basis of the complaints received and available leads. The illegal centres will be sealed and an FIR [first incident report] will be registered against the quacks. In [the] case [of] a quack is caught operating a patient, he or she [will] be immediately arrested.”
The state health department has reportedly identified thirty illegal clinics, hospitals, and even pathology laboratories, operating without registration or a license. Even though the clinics were shuttered, those involved in running them were neither arrested nor served with FIRs. As such, some have reported clinics being reopened after closure and reports have come of people dying following treatment by quack doctors.
Quack doctors operate throughout Uttar Pradesh – their proliferation enabled by the state’s shortage of doctors. There is reportedly one government doctor for every 19,962 people in the state, even as the state government under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has made efforts to plug the gap with recruitment efforts bringing 2,532 new doctors as of June 2019. Nonetheless, the state continues to grapple with a deficit – pronounced in rural areas, where there is just 0.6 doctors for every government hospital.
As such, the state has been termed a “playground for quacks.” There have been numerous extreme and disturbing examples of quackery from the state in recent years. In 2018, a quack doctor was implicated in more than forty HIV infections in one district of the state. Earlier this year, a quack doctor was arrested in the Sarangpur area of the state after practising as a surgeon for ten years without qualifications, conducting ‘thousands’ of procedures in that time. According to Medical Dialogues, the number of procedures performed exceeded 70,000 whilst ANI reported that the medico was even registered under Ayushman Bharat. During his practice, the quack even ran a nursing home.
Nationwide, 25 percent of India’s healthcare workforce operates without proper qualifications – a broad segment of quacks, “traditional birth attendants, faith healers, snakebite curers and bonesetters.” The number of unqualified, unlicensed practitioners in India numbers between one and 2.5 million.