GUWAHATI, June 6 - With doctors, health workers and pharmacists now liable to be jailed for up to two years for failing to report cases of tuberculosis (TB) following the Centre’s gazette notification to that effect, the health authorities in Assam have intensified their drive for TB detection.The notification dated March 16, 2018 by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and published in the Central Government Gazette makes it mandatory for healthcare providers and clinical establishments to notify every TB patient to the local public health authority.
“TB was made a notifiable disease in 2012 but inadequate reporting persisted as a big hindrance in the government’s fight to eradicate it by 2025. The recent gazette notification not just penalizes for failure to report but also provides incentives for the same,” Dr NJ Das, Additional Health Director and Special Programme Officer, Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), Assam, told The Assam Tribune.
According to Dr Das, the impact of the notification has been immediate and noticeable. “The notification has enabled us to collaborate more efficiently with the stakeholders in the TB notifying process. It was seen that against the national average detection of 217 per lakh population per year, half were missing in Assam. This had been due to ignorance, patients not getting proper treatment, and private doctors not maintaining proper record of patients and not notifying,” he said.
The challenges for covering the entire TB-affected populace lie in reaching out to those who do not know that they are affected as also those who know their affected status but are availing treatment from incompetent healthcare service providers like quacks. Next comes the private doctors who fail to notify the authorities on the patients they are treating. Many in the unregulated private sector do not notify cases or follow the standard TB treatment protocol.
“There is a real danger that the TB eradication deadline will be missed unless the detection is optimized, as the missing patients will add to the disease’s spread. But following the notification, detection and notification have increased dramatically. We are increasingly reaching out to the vulnerable segments living in remote areas, to those availing treatment from quacks and motivating them to go for proper treatment which is totally free of cost. Private practitioners have been getting incentives of Rs 500 per patient they are notifying,” Dr Das said, adding that a state-level task force had been formed for the purpose.
Another crucial aspect was that some private doctors were not prescribing the correct medicine or the correct dose. “We have taken up these issues as well. For enhanced notification, we are collaborating with them more closely through awareness and sensitization programmes as also with the other stakeholders,” he said.