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Quacks have emerged as a strong Mafia, a Dinosaur and it requires concerted efforts to eliminate them-Dr. Ajmal Khan.

Quacks and quackery has been flourishing in the country for the last over sixty years and by now they have emerged as a strong well-knit Mafia, developed into a Dinosaur and it requires concerted efforts of all of us to eliminate them. It was for the first time that Punjab Health Care Commission organized and initiated a campaign against quacks in Five Divisions of Punjab and so far taken action against three thousand five hundred quacks and their establishments. Some of these establishments were closed and we also recovered a fine of over Rs. Two crore from them. However, what is very depressing and disgusting to note is the fact that over 30% of these quacks are flourishing and practicing under the patronage of qualified healthcare professionals who back them. This is something which is very disappointing for us in the Punjab Healthcare Commission.

This was stated by Dr. Ajmal Khan, Chief Operating Officer of Punjab Health Care Commission while speaking at the MID YEAR DOCTORSCON 2016 organized by Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians at a local hotel here on July 17th 2016.

The meeting was organized by PAFP in collaboration with a number of institutions and professional organizations which included Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Islamabad, Pakistan Aspirin Foundation, Cardio Metabolic Forum of Pakistan, Pakistan Endocrine Society, Shifa International Hospital, Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan and Pakistan Urogynecologists Association. It attracted Family Physicians from sixty two cities of Pakistan and it turned out to be a record gathering of Family Physicians interested in academics who are keen to build their professional capacity to improve patient care. Dr. Aftab Iqbal Sheikh was the Chairman, Dr. Altaf Cheema Vice Chairman, Dr.M. Nadeem Khawaja Secretary of the organizing committee while Dr. Manzoor Rana was the Chief Coordinator and Prof. Javed Akram Vice Chancellor of SZABMU, PIMS was the Patron of the conference.

The organizing committee had made elaborate arrangements for the conference and it was amazing to see the proceedings started at 8.30 AM in the morning with some religious talks.

Dr. Ajmal Khan in his address delivered in Urdu and English which he termed as Urdish language first commended the efforts of this committed group of family physicians for organizing such a mega academic event, acknowledged their devotion, dedication and record attendance. Then he gave the background of the establishment of Punjab Health Care Commission and its functioning, accomplishments so far. Some members of Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians like Dr. Nadeem Khawaja, Dr. Aftab Iqbal Sheikh and Dr. Altaf Cheema, Dr. Ajmal said have been cooperating with us since 2012 and they have been involved with its deliberations. Giving the background of the PHCC, Dr.Ajmal Khan said that it was in 2009 that the Bill was first moved in the Punjab Assembly.

Since it was an important step to improve healthcare, the political leadership of the province was in a hurry to get it passed but since no meaningful discussions, consultations were held with the different stakeholders in the medical profession, it was opposed. Though we had some discussions but it was not well organized hence the Bill had to be withdrawn. It also had a negative effect in the Media. After taking it back, we initiated detailed deliberations with all the stake holders and during ten months, we had in-depth discussions and consultations with twenty six stake holders, including professional bodies of the medical profession with the result that then this Bill was unanimously passed by the Provincial Assembly of Punjab.

Dr.Ajmal Khan further clarified that this bill was for the protection of the doctors and the medical profession. Protection of qualified healthcare professionals, Dr.Ajmal Khan stated was very dear to us and we need your cooperation. However, as always, healthcare professionals are a bit reluctant to accept any new move despite the fact that it was for their own benefit and safety. There has been some reluctance and they were not prepared to change though now gradually they have realized the importance of this Bill. Even otherwise it is not at all easy to introduce any reforms. It cannot succeed unless it is embraced by the members of the medical profession. I am glad to announce that till today, we have recognized more than thirty thousand doctors and healthcare facilities who have got registered with the Commission.

Pakistan has also emerged as the First Country in the SAARC Region where such a large number of Clinics, Hospitals and healthcare professionals have got registered with any such institution. Chakwal District, he said, was the First to get registered and it will retain this distinction for all times to come.

Continuing Dr. Ajmal Khan said that when we started campaign against quackery, some members of this Mafia Group took us to the Courts and filed petitions in High Courts at Lahore, Multan, and Rawalpindi as well as in the Islamabad High Court. These Honorable Courts in their wisdom said that we cannot seal their establishments, premises and now we have gone to the Supreme Court against this decision. We in the Punjab Healthcare Commission are your best friends. You should remember the fact that we did not produce these quacks and the Mafia Groups which have been functioning since long before the Punjab Healthcare Commission was established and criticism against us in this regard was unfounded. Having said that, we in the PHCC do not want to avoid our responsibility and will work against these quacks. However, over the years this plant has grown into a full-fledged Tree with very deep roots.

Do not expect us to stop it but I can promise that we will continue our fight against this menace till this is completely eliminated. However, you all should remember that to eliminate quacks and quackery, it is extremely important to ensure that universal, affordable, healthcare was accessible to the people of Pakistan in which Family Physicians have an important role to play. As a result of our campaign against quackery, some people have been forced to change their profession and started working in some other fields.

Speaking about the quacks being patronized and functioning with the backing of qualified healthcare professionals, Dr.Ajmal Khan said that today I do not ask you to make a promise because if you do not fulfill that, it will be bade but at least start thinking that you won't support these quacks. We have documentary evidence that a large number of these quacks are using the names of qualified doctors even specialists and their Boards with their names and qualifications are displayed at the premises where these quacks practice. Peer accountability, Dr.Ajmal Khan said, was the key to eliminate the menace of quackery. Those qualified healthcare professionals who patronize these quacks are the black sheep of the medical profession, he remarked. Dr.Ajmal Khan called upon the healthcare professionals to communicate and cooperate with the Commission. I am not running away from my responsibilities.

Despite the fact that as per the Punjab Healthcare Commission, every doctor and healthcare facility is required to get itself registered with it within ninety days and failing which we are empowered to take action, we have not taken action against any one so far during the last four five years. He made a passionate appeal to the members of the medical profession to try to understand the situation, help the Punjab Health Care Commission and perform their duties honestly with devotion and dedication so that we can ensure the provision of cost effective, affordable quality healthcare to the ailing humanity.

Earlier Dr. Aftab Iqbal Sheikh Chairman of the Organizing Committee of DOCTORSCON 2016 in his welcome address said that it was twenty family physicians that started this movement twenty seven years ago. Today we are not only well organized but have branches in many cities all over the country which shows the respect for the family physicians. He was of the view that without the support of Family Physicians, appropriate healthcare delivery cannot be ensured. We have been cooperating with the government in Malaria eradication, Tuberculosis Control, fight against Dengue as well as Population Planning. We work in public-private partnership set up. We need to work hard to bring back and regain the dignity and respect for the medical profession. If our patients are happy with our services, God Almighty will also be happy and it should be our aim.

Living up to his reputation of supplementing his address with numerous couplets from Poet Allama Iqbal, Dr. Aftab Iqbal Sheikh remarked that doctors were the best community. There are black sheep in every community and doctors were no exception but by and large doctors are good human beings and serve with devotion and dedication. Some mistakes committed by some of our colleagues, friends in the medical profession has brought a bad name to the medical profession but we need to work hard to regain the lost dignity and respect for the medical profession in the society.

Col. Ghulam Shabbir from Chakwal speaking at the occasion said that record attendance at today's conference shows that family Physicians working in the periphery were also keenly interested in academics. We in Chakwal, he said, were the first to realize the importance of Punjab Health Care Commission which is in our own interest and got registered with the Commission. We need to initiate a system of self-accountability and monitoring because if we failed to do so, someone else will do that. We have to maintain some minimum standards of healthcare delivery and for that we need to sit together with the Punjab Health Care Commission and in the past they have accepted our viewpoint and there is no reason why they won't accept our suggestions and recommendations which are aimed to maintaining and ensure minimum standards of healthcare, he added.

Dr. Nadeem Khawaja said that family physicians from sixty two cities of Pakistan were present in today's conference. Punjab Health Care Commission, he opined, was in the interest of the medical profession. It has been established for our protection, if we make any mistake, it will come to our rescue; hence we should support it and strengthen it. No investigation can be initiated against the doctors without the permission of this Commission, he added.

Dr. Altaf Cheema in his speech said that we under the banner of Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians organize two to three Continuing Medical Education programmes in Lahore every month. We have motivated people to come out of their clinics and attend these academic events which will ultimately improve patient care. Important topics which are for the benefit of family physicians to build up their professional capacity are discussed at every CME meeting. Last year we held our first meeting here in Islamabad and this was our second meeting here which has attracted huge number of family physicians from all over Pakistan.

Prof. Javed Akram Vice Chancellor of SZABMU speaking at the occasion said that patients come to the specialists very late when some complications have already taken place and very little can be done to help them. They first consult the Family Physicians, hence FPs have a very important role to play to take care of patients, manage hypertension, diabetes mellitus and other diseases much before any complications take place. Hence, it widens the horizon for the family physicians that are considered the backbone of any healthcare delivery system. We all need to work together, cooperate and collaborate with each other. He also emphasized the importance of becoming a good human being first, only then we can become good doctors, Prof. Javed Akram remarked.

Scientific programme of the conference was spread over four sessions devoted to Mother and Child Health, Family Medicine, Cardio metabolic Diseases, Symposium on Diabetes and Workshops on Diabetes. Many distinguished speakers spoke in these sessions on important topics. Detailed report to follow.
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Publication:Pulse International
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 15, 2016
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