Stress on survey to zero in on TB cases

Govt blames private health hubs for missing records

By Our correspondent
  • Published 25.03.15
Health minister Ramdhani Singh (left) inaugurates the toll- free number to help patients on World Tuberculosis Day in Patna on Tuesday. Picture by Ashok Sinha

The government is afraid it does not have records of at least one lakh tuberculosis patients and the health minister has called for a proper survey to find the exact figure.

The figure was revealed at a programme organised by the health department to mark World Tuberculosis Day on Tuesday. Officials in the health department claimed private hospitals often fail to notify the government of TB cases that reach them, hindering the government's attempts to rid Bihar of the disease.

Bihar declared TB a notifiable disease in 2013, a year after the Union government did so. This entails private medical practitioners to report to the government any TB cases they receive, failing which their registration can be cancelled.

K.N. Sahai, the state tuberculosis officer, said: "In the past year, 67,991 tuberculosis patients have been registered with government health facilities and 11,849 patients have been notified by private hospitals. But according to our information, there are around 1 lakh more TB patients, who have gone unreported. This is because private hospitals do not co-operate with us even after TB was declared a notifiable disease. Fifty per cent of the patients visit private health facilities and the cases are not reported back to us."

Health minister Ramdhani Singh, who inaugurated the World Tuberculosis Day programme at a city hotel, stressed the need to conduct a proper survey to find out the actual number of patients to ensure the disease was eradicated from the state.

Sources, however, said the government is yet to chart a course of action against private hospitals who do not provide the records concerned.

"The announcement signified private health facilities need to report every single case of tuberculosis to the department but even today, private hospitals are not providing us the full data. We have been able to gather records of around 11,000 TB patients in the past year so the private hospitals have not failed completely but the situation needs to improve," added Sahai.

Experts present at the World TB Day programme although emphasised on fulfilling nutritional requirements of patients from financially backward families.

Subrat Mohanty, the project co-ordinator of NGO Union based in New South Wales, Australia, said: "Providing medicines to tuberculosis patients cannot alone ensure eradication of the disease. Most of the patients are poor. So, even if the government provides them medication, if their nutrition requirements are not fulfilled, the medication will not work. So, I request the government to also look into the nutritional requirement of the patients. The state can follow the model of Chhattisgarh government where this is taken into consideration."

On the number of TB patients in India, Mohanty said: "Every year, around 2.3 million new tuberculosis patients are being added in the country. According to Revised National TB Control Programme record, 1,000 people die of tuberculosis every three minutes."

The state government on Tuesday launched a toll-free number (1800-102- 2248) to help TB patients availing treatment. Apart from that, the government plans to open Molecular Diagnostic Centres in 25 districts.

"The centres are now operational in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Rohtas districts. The government plans to open the centres at 25 more district headquarters by June. The Cartridge-based Nucleic Acid Amplification test is conducted at the Molecular Diagnostic Centres and it is less time-consuming and the results are more authentic," said state TB officer Sahai.