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Physiotherapists are not doctors

Serena Josephine. M
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Physiotherapists cannot prefix ‘Dr.’ before their names, as they are paramedics and technicians not doctors, the Tamil Nadu Medical Council has cautioned.

A government order and a Madras High Court directive both have forbidden this practice.

However, with some private physiotherapists continuing to use the prefix ‘Dr.’, the council is making a list of them in order to file a contempt petition in court.

In September 2009, the State government, in an order, stated that physiotherapists should not use ‘Dr.’ before their names. The High Court, too, in 2010 and 2011 ruled that physiotherapists could not use ‘Dr.’

“We are planning to file a contempt petition and are collecting a list of persons prefixing ‘Dr.’ before their names. The State government should take action against such erring physiotherapists as it misleads the public,” K. Prakasam, president of the Tamil Nadu Medical Council said. Calling physiotherapists “technical people”, he explained that the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University awarded a paramedical degree to physiotherapists. This was not a medical degree, he said. Nursing, physiotherapy, lab technology and pharmacy came under the paramedical wing, he added.

In 2011, the government of India had issued an order stating that those practising Allopathy, Homoeopathy, Siddha, Naturopathy and Unani were designated as doctors, he said, adding, “In fact, those who have completed an MBBS degree cannot practice unless their university degree is recognized by the Medical Council of India and they are registered with the State Medical Council.”

There are 160 physiotherapists in the government sector in the State and they are designated as physiotherapy technicians grade I and grade II, Dr. Prakasam observed.

Though a physiotherapy council was formed by the Tamil Nadu government, it is yet to be fully implemented. “The government should speed up the implementation of the council. It should also take action against erring physiotherapists,” he added.

L. P. Thangavelu, president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Tamil Nadu State branch said physiotherapists were part of the support system in healthcare sector. “The IMA is very clear that physiotherapists should not use the prefix ‘Dr.’ However, they play an important role in the area of treatment,” he said.

“Many of them however, do not have proper jobs. The government should create more jobs for physiotherapists by creating posts at primary health centres, sub-centres, taluk and district hospitals and medical college hospitals,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Indian Physiotherapists Welfare Association lodged a complaint with the city police commissioner alleging that Dr. Prakasam and Balasubramaniam of IMA were misguiding the public by spreading false information about them and calling them technicians.

G. Vijay Anand, the association’s president said, “We are not controlled by the medical council. They cannot spread false information about us. Such a situation prevails only in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.”

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