KARACHI: 'Quacks' are common across the country, especially in Karachi where they run their clinics, hospitals and even maternity homes without any fear of repercussions. A case of an alleged quack has surfaced, who is masquerading as a medical doctor in a public-sector institution.
In July, 2013, a complaint was lodged against 'doctor' Syed Intesar Ahmed Burney who was working at the National Research Institute for Fertility Care (NRIFC) of the Sindh population welfare department's reproductive health centre at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. The complainant pointed out that the accused did not have an MBBS degree nor was he registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) but he was nevertheless practicing medicine.
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The complaint was registered with the Pakistan Medical Association's anti-quackery committee. The committee wrote a letter to the head of the institute, asking him why Burney was running a medical out-patients department (OPD) in the research clinic when he had not fulfilled the necessary requirements, including a one-year house job.
In response, the head of the NRIFC said that Burney was not an MBBS doctor, had not completed his house job nor was he registered with the PMDC.
He also mentioned that he was running an OPD, which he was not allowed to do by the ministry and the authorities had already been asked to take action against him.
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As per official records, Burney acquired his MSc and PhD qualifications in physiology and not in endocrinology.
Burney is a deputy director with a post of BPS-18 and the PMA's quackery committee said he is also affiliated with some prominent clinics in the city. He also conducts lectures in some institutions.
Burney has been dealing with patients for almost 20 years, a source in the institution disclosed, claiming that the authorities were aware of the situation. "He can only conduct research and is not allowed to deal with patients under the law," the official explained.
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The head of the institution also wrote a letter to the health director-general and minister of the national health services, regulation and coordination, Islamabad, last August to take disciplinary action against the accused but nothing has been done.
"These all are allegations against me," Burney told The Express Tribune. "I only conduct research," he maintained, accepting that he deals with patients in the institutions only for research purposes. "How can I conduct research without dealing with people?" he questioned.
He also denied visiting hospitals in the city but the administration and prescriptions tell another story. "It is a conspiracy against me and my brothers [Ansar Burney and Sarim Burney]," he believes. "It is a noble cause I am involved in," he added.
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"A person who has a doctorate in physiology or bio chemistry can run a clinic," he claimed.
"He is not entitled to practice in clinics," Dr Aziz Khan Tank, the chairperson of the PMA's anti-quackery committee said. He said that all relevant officials and hospitals where he practices as a medical doctor had been informed. "No one is serious about taking action against him," he said.
"I am not aware of this particular case," said the provincial health department's special secretary, Dr Khalid Hussain Shaikh. "I'll certainly take action if the case is genuine," he ensured.
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Interestingly, Burney accepted that those couples visit him who have been unable to conceive for years. "I advise them on the basis of nutrition, environment and lifestyle," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.