Let us diversify our medical system
Every year, we produce more doctors for fewer jobs. The gap continues to expand. Moreover, most doctors refuse to work in health centers in rural areas and hospitals in small towns. Many qualified doctors go for jobs in other fields, wasting the very expensive education that we provide them. It must not go on. We should improve the current situation to provide healthcare to all.
Since our colonial masters introduced it here, we continue to believe that allopathy is the only way to treat patients. Multinational pharmaceutical companies reinforce our fixation, using the influence of their powerful governments and their own big money.
There are several alternatives to allopathy. Homeopathy, developed in Germany two centuries ago, is as scientific as allopathy and an effective alternative. (The British royal family uses this system.) Then there is herbal medicine, gaining ground fast in the West. We have our own way of treating patients that has been in practice for thousands of years.
To make a beginning, the provincial governments should devote some of th
eir present medical colleges to homeopathy and herbal medicine (hikmat), both of which are recognized by the Government. The colleges may adopt courses, research and medicines developed anywhere in the world. Local companies may be given incentives to manufacture non-allopathic medicines and also do research on their own. Private medical colleges may be asked to teach alternative systems.
Most homeopaths and hakims do not hanker for high standard of living, nor do they have many job offers from other countries. So, they will be much more willing to work in rural and less developed areas. A few of them may be posted also in every hospital in large cities for the patients, who do not want to be treated by allopaths. Many may have private practice. With all three systems flourishing side by side, patients will have alternatives for treatment.
Even in case of allopathy, generic medicines should be promoted. Sh. Rashid Ahmad, health minister in the cabinet of Z A Bhutto, did a great job in introducing generic medicines. However, all that he did was abandoned as soon he ceased to be the health minister. The government may resume work where he left.
Our primary objective is to provide healthcare to the entire population, not to promote a specific system of medicine. We must not deny healthcare to rural areas because allopath doctors do not want to go there. Whoever is ready may be posted there.
Our objective should also not be to protect multinational pharmaceutical companies and allow them to charge very high prices for their patented allopathic medicines. We should allow patients a choice in using medicines for treatment.
Muhammad Abd al-Hameed
Author, "Ghurbat kaise mit sakti hai" (Classic, Lahore)