Every month, at least ten patients admitted to Sewree tuberculosis (TB) hospital have left the tuberculosis treatment midway. Doctors have blamed it on patients’ inability to cope with the side effects of the high-intensity drugs used in the treatment, combined with neglect from relatives.
A patient suffering from drug-sensitive pulmonary tuberculosis needs to take anti–TB medicines for six to eight months whereas those diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis need to be on anti-TB medication for at least two years. “For the first six months of the treatment, patients have to take injections six days a week. The major challenge for health care providers is to convince them to continue the course,” said a doctor working closely with TB patients.
Public health experts said that patients who have not completed their entire course are at the risk of spreading drug-resistant tuberculosis. “A TB patient who isn’t completely cured can spread the bacterial infection to at least 30 to 80 people in the community,” said Dr Om Shrivastav, infectious disease consultant at Jaslok Hospital.
Each time a patient goes absconding from the hospital, hospital authorities file a police complaint against the patient and send a letter to relatives of the patient.
Mumbai with 2195 cases has the highest burden of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis in the state, which had 5189 cases last year. To encourage patients to continue with the treatment, the civic body has decided to enroll patients cured of TB as peer educators to counsel current patients.