19 January 2011

Uganda: Ministry Must Eliminate Quack Health Practitioners

A quack medical worker in Kayunga district is on the run after a boy died at his unlicensed clinic. Yasin Matovu, who residents believe is a doctor, was operating on the boy at his private clinic.

Kayunga district health officials have denied knowledge of the 'doctor' although residents claim he has been carrying out surgical operations in the area for over four years. Matovu has also been claiming to be an army officer but is not known by the UPDF Medical Services department.

The incident puts in spotlight the safety of healthcare services in the private sector but also security of the population on matters of health.

Gaps in health-care service provision have persisted for long. Coupled with ignorance this has made most of the population to rely on quack practitioners to meet their health needs.

Health facilities have been constructed all over the country, but most of the Health Centre IVs, which should be offering surgical services are not fully operational. In fact, less than a fifth of all health facilities that should be able to offer surgery are not fully equipped to do so. As a result a myriad of private clinics offering alternative therapies offered by unqualified personnel have sprung up everywhere. They are not controlled, monitored or supervised.

These quack therapists are crippling the health sector, causing unnecessary deaths, reaping poor people off hard-earned monies yet they are already burdened by illnesses they cannot afford to get treatment for.

Local people have no skills to identify quack health practitioners, health professionals are the best placed to monitor their sector. Despite the existence of professional associations for most health-care cadres, they are cash-strapped and not funded by the Government.

Village health teams that should act as whistle blowers are also not fully operational in most districts. The Ministry of Health must tighten the regulatory and supervisory mechanism to eliminate quack health providers.

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