BMC does not have data on TB patients from private hospitals
Responds to mid-day's RTI query saying its website is still under construction and information is not available
The new rules of the central government dictate that all data regarding TB patients from private hospitals and clinics, must be submitted to it for compilation to know the actual figure of TB patients. Failure to do so could attract action against them including imprisonment. But as per the recent response to an RTI filed by mid-day, the newly launched website of the TB department of Mumbai, Nikshay, is still under construction and the data is not available.
In March 2018, the ministry of health and family welfare issued a notification which stated that failure to notify TB cases could land doctors in jail. The notification further stated that any clinical establishment — doctors, laboratories, pharmacists, chemists and druggists — that fails to notify tuberculosis patients, will be booked under Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 269 pertains to a 'negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life', and carries a jail term of upto six months or a fine or both. Section 270 refers to a 'malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life', and invites imprisonment that may extend to two years or a fine or both.
'Data to be migrated'
The response by the TB department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to an RTI query filed by mid-day on May 17 this year, stated, "As per Central TB Divisions directives, all TB patients' details, both in public and private sector, are entered in Nikshay website. However, Nikshay 0.2 version was released recently by the government of India's Central TB Division, and it is still under construction and all data entered in the previous Nikshay is yet to be migrated to a new version hence the data is not available at this office currently." Despite repeated attempts to contact her, Dr Daksha Shah, in-charge of the TB cell of BMC, wasn't available for comment.
Data needed to eradicate TB
However, the RTI responses from other districts have provided all the information sought in the application. Deepak Mehta, a former TB patient and an activist stated that it is essential for the government to compile all the data regarding TB patients to attain TB-eradication target by 2020. "I haven't seen the RTI responses but it is essential for all TB units of each district to have this data in hand. If they have stated that they don't have it because of the upgradation of the website, then either it shows their careless attitude or they don't want to reveal the actual number."
The Maharashtra government is already mulling a Bill for tuberculosis control, which has a provision to send caution notices to doctors and remove their names from the medical council registry if they fail to notify TB patients.
Data a must for actual figures
"Many TB patients go to private hospitals for treatment but there is no one to follow up on them, to see whether they stopped their medication, which could further give rise to drug-resistant TB. So until private hospitals come forward, the government will not know the actual numbers of prevalence and incidence of TB cases in the country," said Dr Yatin Dholakia from the Maharashtra State Anti-TB Association.
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