KATHMANDU: In a nationwide crackdown on medical charlatans, Nepalese police have arrested 53 people for allegedly working as doctors with fake credentials or false education certificates and said Monday that more suspects would be arrested this week. Weekend raids at reputed hospitals, health clinics and medical schools across the Himalayan nation ended with police handcuffing 36 white-coated men and women and taking them away while patients and medical staff looked on. Another 17 had been arrested in February when authorities began the investigation, called “Operation Quack”.

The suspects - believed to have presented phony practicing licenses or fake medical degrees when applying for work - are being charged with forgery and face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to Central Investigation Bureau official Dibesh Lohani. While a group representing Nepalese doctors protested the indignity of the raids, patients said they were appalled and angry about the scandal - even afraid in seeking treatment after learning that some doctors had been entrusted to practice medicine despite not meeting the training requirements.

“These people should be given the maximum punishment,” said Kusholal Achame, who was waiting yesterday to have a doctor review his latest laboratory reports at Kathmandu’s popular Bir Hospital. Another patient at Bir, visibly shaken by the scandal, also said the bogus doctors should be prosecuted. “They may not care, but it has put a lot of people at risk,” said Lal Bahadur Pandey, a 68-year-old retired policeman now suffering from kidney problems. “ These types of doctors need to be picked out and punished.”— AP