People eligible for cash benefits under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme now need to produce Aadhaar card as proof of identity of the patient.
Directly observed treatment (DOT) providers and private healthcare providers, who are receiving cash benefits, would have to produce Aadhaar card of patients to avail of the monetary assistance. Government officials looking after the tuberculosis programme in the state, however, assured that this would not create hurdles for TB patients in getting free diagnostic and treatment facilities.
At present, a DOT provider, including accredited social health activist (Asha) workers in villages, get an honorarium of Rs 1,000 for each TB patient and Rs 1,500 for each old patient who has abandoned his/her medication midway and needs to restart medication afresh.
Any family member of the patient can become the family DOT provider and he/she becomes eligible to receive Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 as honorarium. The DOT providers have to ensure that tuberculosis patients get timely medication. Private healthcare providers also get Rs 100 for each notification and Rs 400 for each patient who completes treatment.
The Centre-sponsored Revised National Tuberculosis Programme uses a web-based application, Nikshay, under the National Health Mission, to ensure electronic payment to various beneficiaries based on Aadhaar.
"We have made Aadhaar mandatory only for DOT providers, including family DOT providers and private healthcare providers who are getting monetary assistance under Revised National Tuberculosis Programme," said state tuberculosis officer K.N. Sahay. "This has been done according to the Centre's guideline. This would ensure that the service is delivered to beneficiaries. We would also get a database of patients. This would further help us to know whether or not they are taking timely medication, as many patients tend to leave their medication midway."
He said TB patients won't be denied diagnostic or treatment services if they don't produce Aadhaar card.
"The DOT centres would continue to provide free diagnostic and treatment facilities. Patients turning up at DOT centres now need not provide us Aadhaar-related proof to avail of services," Sahay said. "We have plans to ask tuberculosis patients (those turning up at the DOT centres) to get their Aadhaar card made and provide us their proof to help us create a database. However, this would not be mandatory."
Patna district tuberculosis officer Ganesh Prasad said tuberculosis patients coming to DOT centres in the district were already being asked to provide their Aadhaar cards but it had still not been made mandatory.
"This is being done only to bring transparency in the tuberculosis-elated programmes," Prasad said. "Earlier, we have faced a lot of problems in identifying tuberculosis patients in the districts. Many times we have found that patients had not provided correct details because of which we were not able to provide them medication. Our officials faced a lot of hassles locating them. However, if TB patients give their Aadhaar card details, we would keep track of their medicine course."
Health experts hailed the government's initiative.
"Keeping Aadhaar-related details of TB patients would help in the long run," said physician and anti-AIDS activist Diwakar Tejaswi. "Cases have been reported in which TB patients continued their medicine course only for a month and there were also reports of private providers engaged in TB programme selling the medicines in the market. There was no system to track them but the Aadhaar link would now fix responsibility. The officials can check whether benefits of the scheme had reached beneficiaries."
He said the state government should help TB patients get their Aadhaar cards made by setting up camps at the DOT centres or at the block level.
State tuberculosis officer Sahay said patients would have to give their Aadhaar-related proof in future.
"The Centre plans to give monetary assistance to tuberculosis patients for their nutritional rehabilitation, though the amount has not been decided yet. Tuberculosis patients would require to give their Aadhaar card proof once this scheme is launched," he said.
State government records show 16,000 TB patients registered with the government set-up this year, while 27,000 others have registered with private set-ups.