Suspect machine made herbalists millionaires

Sunday December 27 2015

 

By Syriacus Buguzi

Dar es Salaam. It is one machine that has earned millions of shillings to the so-called healers or ‘doctors’ of traditional medicine, but one which remains with a dubious medical record.

Thousands of unsuspecting patients have fallen to the trick played on them by those who operated the supposed machine that was capable of scanning the entire body and detailing in minutes the condition of the whole body system.

But there is no strong or proven medical case that could explain the efficacy of the Quantum Magnetic Analyser, the machine in question. It is fitted with a magnetic sensor and linked to a screen monitor.

Apparently, it is this China and Korean made machines that both local and foreign herbalists in the country are using to lure more people into their businesses. These clinics pry on the growing number of people developing lifestyle diseases and other medical complications that either are too expensive to treat in the normal government health structure or are agonizingly slow to access.

But now the government has woken up and an announced a mop-up exercise, The Citizen on Sunday has learnt, was aimed at looking at the growing deployment of the Quantum Magnetic Analyser among the equally mushrooming ‘herbal doctors’ who have lately come into focus following a raid by deputy minister for health Dr Hamis Kigwangalla on the premises of famous herbalist ‘Tabibu Mwaka’ in Dar es Salaam.

A Citizen On Sunday reporter posed as a patient to explain what exactly happens in some of the clinics using the machine. The Alternative Health Practices Council of Tanzania (AHPCT) has also cast its doubt, telling The Citizen on Sunday it was alarmed at the use of the machine, and confirmed an investigation targeting it was imminent.

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly and Children, issued a ban last week on public advertisement of herbal medicine by alternative health practitioners and demanded the inspection of all herbs and machines practitioners used to diagnose their patients.

The Citizen on Sunday investigation established that most patients, who have been visiting herbal clinics in the city, were being subjected to the questionable diagnostic equipment.

The machine is being marketed as one that can scan an entire body and diagnose every health problem—raising concerns from among Traditional Medicine experts in the country.

The AHPCT has been planning a major crackdown on the popular herbal clinics in major cities in an effort to inspect the machines.

However, the council’s plans were being sabotaged by what was described by the AHPCT Chairman, Dr Edmund Kayombo, as “politicking”. Although Dr Kayombo was not ready to explain what the “politicking’’ was all about, there have been allegations of corruption linked with some alternative health practitioners. This made it difficult for the concerned authorities to regulate the practices of some of the popular herbal clinics.

Early this year, two Koreans were fined Sh500,000 in Dodoma for attempting to bribe government officials who were seeking to close their alternative medicine clinic for operating below standards. Regulatory authorities told The Citizen on Sunday that they are making efforts to deal with herbalists who defy the laws.

“We are aware that some owners of herbal clinics have been importing and using some questionable diagnostic machines,’’ said Dr Kayombo in an interview with The Citizen on Sunday.

This, according to Dr Kayombo, has been going on for a while now. “We also want to follow up through the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority and officially establish if the machines are safe and licensed but through our little research, we already know that the machines are not registered and not helpful to patients,’’ he said. This reporter is still making efforts to reach the TFDA officials for comment.

Some alternative health practitioners have been riding on the wave of the popularity of alternative medicine which is prompted by poor services in public hospitals to open up new clinics in the country.

This is evidenced by the mushrooming of the clinics being advertised in the mainstream media and even on social media platforms.

The Citizen on Sunday caught up with some patients who have undergone the tests through the machines at some herbal clinics in Dar es Salaam. According to their tales, the operators of the machines as well as the herbalists are not at peace with the machines when diagnosing patients.

Mr Jerome Sungura, a resident of Mwenge in the city, recently decided to take his fianceé to one herbal clinic (name withheld), after she suffered persistent abdominal pains.

While at the clinic, a herbalist told Mr Jerome that his fianceé would have to be subjected to a diagnostic machine known as the Quantum Magnetic Analyzer.

When Jerome sought to know what the machine would diagnose, the herbalist said it would scan the entire body system and come up with every ailment that afflicted his fianceé, including diseases of the kidney, liver, reproductive system and brain.

The herbalist, however, warned Mr Jerome, that the machine was being used secretly for fear of government reprisal as it was imported from China and was not yet licensed for use in the country.

But finally, Jerome’s fianceé agreed to undergo the test, whereby she was asked to hold a sensor, which is connected to a computer and the machine in question. In just one minute, the herbalist said it had diagnosed some deficiency of vitamin E and hormonal imbalance. The Citizen on Sunday took the initiative to investigate the claims at the clinic located in the city. The paper went along with Mr Allan Semzaba, a 35-year-old man, a father of two children, who posed as a patient with infertility.

Semzaba was asked to pay Sh40, 000 for diagnosis trough the machine together with consultation fees. The herbalist, who introduced himself as David, asked Mr Semzaba to undergo the Quantum Magnetic Analyser test which finally, according to the operators, diagnosed that Mr Semzaba could not have children.

The herbalist proposed herbal medicine worth Sh320, 000, which was believed to cure Mr Semzaba’s infertility problems within three months; however, experts have raised questions over the possibility of easily diagnosing and curing infertility through herbs.

A researcher on traditional medicine from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas), Prof Rogassian Mahunnah, said it would not be possible to claim that the herbalists can heal infertility.

‘’Infertility is a broad subject. I doubt the possibility that the condition would be simply healed by the herbalists,” said Prof Mahunnah as he listed down the diseases that have been found to be cured through traditional herbs—such as malaria and common stomach problems.

The Citizen on Sunday has, in the recent past, highlighted the trend of mushrooming herbal clinics being operated by North Koreans in Dar. Some of the clinics have been temporarily closed only to re-open later without any improvements. Such clinics have been banned completely in many countries, including in neighbouring Mozambique.

It however remains to be seen how the planned government crackdown on these herbalists’ clinic will turn out. Some of the clinics owned by flamboyant and self-declared “doctors” are still advertising their services even after the government last week issued a ban on such adverts and gave a 14 day-ultimatum for those running the clinics to furnish authorities with details of their registration.     

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