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Uncontrolled growth in number of Bali healers causing concern

Publication Date : 06-06-2014


The rapid growth in the number of traditional healers in Bali, now reaching thousands far exceeding the number of medical doctors, has started to worry the island's administration.

The Bali Health Agency fears that the majority of these healers are practicing without license.

Ketut Suarjaya, head of the health agency, told The Jakarta Post that the proliferation of alternative medicine was alarming, saying that this was of great concern because the public was using traditional plants and herbs that had not been certified.

“We’ve found one traditional physician who ‘prescribes’ his customers herbs that actually contain antibiotics,” he said, explaining that antibiotics could only be bought with a doctor’s prescription.

The agency recorded that as of May this year, more than 3,000 alternative practitioners were operating in the province but only 127 had been issued with licenses. In comparison, the agency noted, the island only had around 1,500 doctors.

Karangasem has 572 alternative medicine practitioners and Jembrana has 498, while other regencies have around 250.

The illegal practitioners include traditional healers, masseurs and acupuncturists.

Suarjaya said the agency would form a special team to handle the issue. The team will be tasked with identifying and recording traditional clinics and their license status.

Following this, Suarjaya said, those found to lack the appropriate paperwork would have to obtain a license.

“We will coordinate with all regional administrations to ensure we collect the most recent data, because they have the authority to issue it.”

The team will also monitor the clinics afterward and offer training to those that were found to not have a license as well as those that had. “We will start development programs, like training on how to treat patients safely,” Suarjaya said.

The agency would enforce harsh penalties on illegal clinic that continued operating. “Should a clinic refuse to process its license, we will cease its operations,” Suarjaya stressed.

In February, the agency was forced to shut down six illegal traditional clinics discovered during a three-day survey across Bali. One of them, however, was able to resume operation after being trained by the agency’s officers and receiving a license.

“We will continue to monitor all alternative medicine practitioners, to ensure that people are safe from illegal and hazardous alternative medicine,” he said.

In May, the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) Bali chapter also conveyed concerns over the practice. During a coordination meeting on alternative medicine in Sanur, it urged the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to ban television and radio advertisements promoting alternative medicine.

Association secretary I Made Sudarmaja alleged that adverts such as these misled the public. “It poses a danger to society if these ads are aired. We should not let the general public be fooled by the misleading information,” he said.

Many clinics offering alternative treatment have advertisments, mainly featuring testimony from supposed former patients, claiming alternative medicine had cured them of grave diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The IDI pointed out that none of the clinics had presented scientifically sound research to back up their claims.


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