Shortage of private diagnostic centres hampers identification and early treatment of tuberculosis (TB) patients, discussed private medical practitioners at a meeting on Sunday.
Officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) gave details of the recently-launched TB programme and addressed several concerns of general physicians at the meeting, organised by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). More than 50 city doctors attended the session.
In February, the civic body rolled out a TB programme for prevention, early detection and treatment of multiple drug resistant TB (XXDR TB) after cases of it were detected by the Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, in January this year.
“Time is very precious in Mumbai; second only to earning a livelihood. Patients are not able to go for tests to designated laboratories because of time constraints. The TB programme, much like the polio programme, needs to be taken to their doorstep,” said Dr Shivkumar Utture, president of IMA and a practising surgeon.
Doctors narrated incidents regarding patients refusing to go for diagnostic tests at government hospitals, because it took too long for administrative and medical formalities, and eventually dropped out of treatment.
One doctor suggested keeping a sputum microscopy test in mobile ambulances.
“We now have TB officers in each of the city’s 24 wards and it will be easier for private practitioners to refer patients to the government’s TB programme,” said Dr Mini Khetarpal, the Mumbai Tuberculosis officer, BMC.
Officials said that more than 60% TB patients seek treatment from private doctors. Doctors urged BMC officials to identify at least one private lab in each ward for diagnosis.
“For the first time, the government is reaching out to the private practitioners, which is a great step. We need standardisation of treatment because at present, it differs from unit to unit in hospitals and from one clinic to another,” said Dr Utture.
Private practitioners said since they work as family doctors, they have a better connect with patients and can help in early detection and treatment if they received standardised training.
“Doctors need to follow up on TB patients for at least one year so that drug resistance TB is prevented and doctors should tie up with social workers for giving door to door treatment,” said Dr Rohini Shinde, a physician from Lower Parel.