TB clinic in civic school puts students' health at risk

Three times every week, for a total of nine hours, some 700 students at this municipal school in Dadar are exposed to tuberculosis bacteria, since the civic authorities are running a TB clinic at the institute which is regularly visited by almost 35 patients.

Institutional illness: BMC is running a TB treatment facility out of its Gokhale Road (South) Municipal School in Dadar (W). Pic/Satyajit Desai

The three-storey Gokhale Road (South) Municipal School in Dadar (W) houses a clinic where, for the past few years, TB and malaria patients have been administered treatment. Currently, the TB care facility is operational during the morning school hours, leading local politicians to take up the issue. The institute, which runs in two sessions between 7.30 am and 5.30 pm, holds classes on weekdays, while the patients are required to visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, between 10 am to 1 pm. The time overlap generates considerable cause for worry, since doctors say that the students, and even teachers, are at peril of catching the air-borne disease if they stay near infected patients.

When this reporter visited the establishment, he observed that almost 500 of all the students study in the English medium section on the third floor, where the clinic is located, in a classroom adjoining another where children attend classes. The patients, students and school staff use the same staircase, as the building doesn’t have a lift. An alternate entrance at the far end of the premises stays locked and is out of use.

A worker at the clinic said, “TB patients have to come to the clinic themselves as they must take medicines here itself and complete the course. We have the medicine kit of every patient.” He added, “We also take care of other work related to the health department.”

Risky business
Dr Suleman Ladlani, honorary secretary of Maharashtra State Anti-TB Association, said the set-up makes students susceptible. “If active TB patients visit the school regularly during school hours and come in close contact with students, it would be a problem for the children. It would not be an issue if the patients visit on holidays.”

Asked about a possible solution, Dr Ladlani said, “Either the clinic should be shifted to another place or there should be separate entry and exit for TB patients.”

Local leaders are demanding that the school be shifted. “Kids at the school are vulnerable to the disease and the clinic must be shifted to some other, isolated place,” said Sandeep Deshpande, group leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and corporator from Dadar area. He said if the BMC didn’t act on the issue soon enough, he would bring the matter to the notice of the municipal commissioner.

BMC says
Sharadchandra Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward where the school falls, said, “We are coming up with a new policy that would bar activities other than teaching inside school buildings. It will be discussed in the civic meeting. As far as the clinic goes, I will take up the matter with the ward health official.”

‘Ill’ treatment
Tuberculosis, an airborne disease caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, primarily assaults the lungs of those with low immunity. Healthy persons are at risk if they stay near infected persons, since that is likely to expose them to contaminated sputum which travels through air when a patient coughs, sneezes or spits. This endangers the health of the children and school staff attending classes during the same hours when the patients visit the clinic located on the institute’s third floor.] 

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