Thursday, 11 April 2013

TUBERCULOSIS: India: Govt ropes in private hospitals to combat tuberculosis

Nivedita Niranjankumar Bangalore: April 2, 2013 DH News Service

 To improve treatment for tuberculosis, the Department of Health and Family Welfare is collaborating with private hospitals and private medical colleges in the State.

According to Dr Anil S, deputy director of Health and Family services, government of Karnataka, 30 to 40 percent of patients get care from the private sector — hospitals, dispensaries, clinics, etc. “The fact is that nearly 40 percent of the 70,000 patients receiving care from the private sector is a huge number. That’s when we realised we needed to reach out to the private sector,” he said.

In a step towards achieving its goal, the central Health and Family welfare department developed a National Strategic Plan to be implemented during 2012-2017 with the objective of providing citizens with universal access to tuberculosis (TB) treatment. The plan falls under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program.

 “We first approached private medical colleges — the first choice of many patients — as these colleges usually have the necessary infrastructure.
We told the colleges that we would provide them with human resources such as a medical officer who would liaison between the department and the college, and train lab technicians if needed,” Anil said.
He added that there are now 42 private and government medical colleges under the Private-Public-Mix (PPM) program. 

Anil revealed that the colleges had responded positively when approached. “We now get at least 10 to 15 per cent cases from them,” he said.

Three key players

The PPM program involves three private players – private medical colleges, private hospitals and NGOs. The Union government is currently involved with 1,971 NGOs, including the Catholic Bishop Conference of India, Population Services International, The Union, and World Vision India who work all across the country and reach out to grass root levels. 

“There are many schemes that NGOs can use to tie up with private institutions. We identify institutions that have the necessary facilities and infrastructure and then see which scheme fits them and then approach the State department,” said Dr Shobha Ekka, State Co-ordinator for Catholic Bishop Conference of India. The Catholic Bishop Conference currently has 17 catholic institutions that are a part of the PPM program. “Hospitals like St Martha’s, St Philomena’s and St John’s are all a part of the program,” she added. 

Through the NGOs, the State government is also conducting awareness campaigns aimed at informing factory workers about tuberculosis. “We recently held one such campaign with Texport India pvt limited, a garment factory, and one of our senior officers also held a talk at Larsen and Toubro. More than awareness we have noticed that we need to remove the stigma that people associate with tuberculosis. We educate people and tell them to talk to health officers so that they can receive early treatment,” Anil said.

Private hospitals are also an integral part of the PPM program. “Private hospitals and private practitioners play a huge role in the treatment of tuberculosis, especially in rural taluks and districts. If a private hospital tells us about a TB-positive patient, we supply them with free drugs — provided they are ready to let us keep a track of the patient’s progress,” explained Anil. “We also offer training for their lab technicians if needed.”

Ekka praised the government’s efforts so far but said that there is a greater need for public and private sectors to come together. “The government can’t reach every corner,” she said. “And in such places if there are organisations or private parties that can do the same work then the government should tie up with them and work together.”

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