Shift war on quack medics to rural areas

The new plan to use mobile phone text messages to report and verify suspected quack medical workers is handy. This will save health service seeking citizens from tricksters and being harmed. The platform is easy-to-use and feedback reaches recipients quickly to verify whether a medical practitioner is qualified, or is a quack. The text messages or SMS are also affordable, costing on average only Shs100, per instance.

No doubt, this innovation is impressive. But the Ministry of Health should emphasise this noble initiative for rural Uganda because that is where the bulk of our non-literate population is. Besides, the remote villages are also places where the quakes thrive.

Better still the new system should extend to verification of licensed, active, and blacklisted doctors, dental surgeons, medical officers, health units, and clinics. This will ensure healthcare seekers just text their queries to SMS short code 8198 before consulting a fishy medic or seek care at a shady health unit.

But these rural communities also require smarter supplementary solutions to beat the medical malpractice. To achieve the add-on solutions, the Health ministry should adopt other more creative and better mass outreach models. For instance, the new tool should be popularised more through public outreach channels.

This should include announcements in churches, mosques, and at social functions. Such channels build confidence in the tool, and ensures wider and ready uptake among potential healthcare victims. This would widen outreach messages about the tool and help raise public guard against quack medics. This would also minimise risks from unprofessional medical practitioners.

Over all, more deterrent measures should be enforced against the quacks in order to secure the new reporting system. This means the several arrested quack medics should be punished by strict enforcement of Article 54 of the Nurses and Midwives Council Act, 1996. This should ensure the quacks are given the minimum Shs300,000 or maximum Shs3 million, and or minimum of three months and maximum three years in jail, or both.

Also, to widen the use of the SMS mobile phone platform, the operators should expand this SMS application to meet the needs of the wider rural victims of fraudulent medical care. Most of the rural folks are currently disaantaged by feedback to their SMS in English exclusively.

Over all, the add-on of SMS feedback in key regional local languages would strengthen use of this mobile phone application to fight quacks, and cut down abuse of professional healthcare services in the country.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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