Quacks dominate rural healthcare, says survey

A survey of 23,000 households across 100 villages in rural Madhya Pradesh has found that while the number of private health care providers has increased, many of them had no formal medical training.

The survey, published in the journal Health Affairs, says on average, people had access to 11 health-care providers in a village. Seventy-one per cent of these providers were in the private sector but only 51 per cent of them had any formal medical training. In terms of primary care visits, the private sector accounted for 89 per cent, of which 77 per cent were to the providers who had no formal training. In contrast, only 11 per cent of all primary care visits were to the public health sector and only 4 per cent were to providers with an MBBS degree.

Competency factor

Despite the availability of state primary care centres and the competence of doctors in this sector, doctors in the public sector spent on an average only 2.1 hours a day seeing patients as fewer patients approached them. Doctors with formal training were more competent as they exhibited higher correct diagnosis and correct treatment rates than health-care providers trained in alternative medicine and those without any training whatsoever, the study found.

The researchers found that the socio-economic status of a village and not household determines the quality of care people receive. Households with low socio-economic status in villages with high socio-economic status were able to access more competent health care providers. But households with low socio-economic status located in villages with low socio-economic status use low quality care.