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Their Illegal but Indispensable Role in Primary Healthcare

Unqualified Medical Practitioners

Some of the critical facets of medical practice by unqualified medical practitioners in India are explored: their role in treating acute medical conditions, and the responses of poor households eager to recover quickly with minimal spending. The study reveals how a wide range of associated actors are connected to the UMPs, including lawmakers, regulators, health managers, and those who benefit from the UMPs, that is, mainly qualified doctors.

This article highlights how the management of the health sector is founded upon the premise that the public sector health facilities, which in turn are based on population norms—the sub-centres, the primary health centres (PHCs) and the community health centres (CHCs)—will be responsible for providing day-to-day health needs of rural communities. However, when the spatial location of these facilities is viewed through GIS mapping combined with census data, it is apparent that the actual location of both the PHCs and the sub-centres has resulted in an uneven clustering of facilities across the country in almost all the subdivisions of every district. The data reveals that the majority of villagers need to travel more than five kilometres (km) (at times even 10 km or more) to see the nearest PHC medical officer (JSK nd).

In the absence of a proximate alternative, most villagers get treatment from nearby practitioners who, while possessing some knowledge of drugs and dosage, lack a recognised medical qualification. Although such medical practices are illegal, a person who can provide effective, quick-acting medicine naturally becomes the first choice since the qualified practitioners are located too far away. Given this, the article seeks to highlight the criticality of the role played by the unqualified medical practitioners (UMPs),1 proscribed and unacceptable as it happens to be, and suggests responses to counter this state of affairs.

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Updated On : 1st Feb, 2019

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