Central government’s notification to make non-notification of communicable disease Tuberculosis by doctors and chemists a criminal offence will go a long way in checking missing TB cases in Himachal Pradesh.
The hill state is particularly benefitted with this as while the government doctors generally report TB cases, majority private practitioners have not been notifying TB patients for different reasons.
In HP, even as over 70 per cent people are dependent on government health services, a number of them go to private practitioners for TB cure even if they have to buy the medicine (which is given free by government), fearing stigma.Official sources said, there are around 800 private practitioners in the state, but less than 100 have been notifying TB cases so far.
The health ministry had made TB a notifiable disease six years back, but there was no penal action for non-notification, which left the health authorities helpless.
The state registered 16,000 TB cases in 2017-18, which were reported by government institutions. There are 450 MDR (Multi Drug Resistant) TB patients under treatment in the state. Roughly, 900 cases of TB are notified by private doctors annually against the occurrence of 2,500-3,000 cases in a year.
The notification by Union Health and Family Welfare ministry on 16 March, 2018, will however, check the loophole. TB had a global incidence of 10.4 million in 2016, 2.8 million of them in India.
About three million TB cases are not reported to the national TB programmes every year. India accounts for about one third of this ‘missing millions’.
“People have been going to private doctors for secrecy, who weigh their concern by not notifying the disease. In such cases, while the TB patients forego the benefit of free medicine by government, their condition goes unmonitored, which is unhealthy scenario,” said a health high up.
“The new notification will bring to light the real burden of TB in Himachal and help monitor TB patients properly. This will also bring to light the names of government doctors, especially in medical colleges, who don’t notify the TB patients and write medicines from market,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state TB cell is now preparing for a sensitisation workshop of all the chapters of Indian Medical Association in HP on new notification.