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Health Ministry Looks to Criminalise Non-reporting of Tuberculosis Cases

Patients who get treated by private hospitals and doctors often never get reported to the government system, distorting the government’s database and India’s TB statistics.

Aradhna Wal | News18

Updated:March 20, 2018, 11:23 PM IST
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Health Ministry Looks to Criminalise Non-reporting of Tuberculosis Cases
Representative Image. (Reuters)
New Delhi: The union health ministry has made it harder for healthcare facilities to distort the number of tuberculosis patients in India by potentially criminalising the failure to report them to the government.

Any clinical establishment, druggist, pharmacy and/or chemist that does not notify cases to their district or nodal TB authority may attract the provisions of sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code, said a ministry notification on Tuesday evening.

Section 269 refers to a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life and section 270 to a malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. The former hands out imprisonment up to six months and the latter up to two years.

India has the largest disease burden for TB, globally. It was made a notifiable disease in India in 2012. Essentially, every healthcare provider and establishment has to report any case they come across to their district TB authorities or their district health officer or chief medical officer.

India has had a long-standing problem with private sector notifications, of the lack of it. Patients who get treated by private hospitals and doctors often never get reported to the government system, distorting the government’s database and India’s TB statistics.

A number of TB cases were unearthed from the private sector, which led to a huge bump in India’s numbers in the 2016 global TB report. The number of deaths doubled in 2015 – 480,000 from 220,000 in 2014, because of unreported cases.

The programme director of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), Dr. Sunil Khaparde had then told News18, “The results don’t mean an increase in the number of cases or disease burden, but a more accurate picture of it.”

The recent notification re-emphasis the need for accurate information. The ministry said that “inappropriate diagnosis and irregular or incomplete treatment with anti-tubercular drugs may contribute to complications, disease spread and the emergence of drug-resistant
Tuberculosis.”

A notified patient, who is in the government database, receives patient home visit; counseling of tuberculosis patient and family members; support for treatment adherence and treatment completion.

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| Edited by: Tarun Bhardwaj
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