Labs for testing TB patients on cards

PATNA: Delayed for years, two intermediate reference laboratories (IRLs) would be set up in the next few months at the District Tuberculosis Centre (DTC), Patna, and the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI), Agamkuan, here for sputum culture and sensitivity test of TB drug-resistant patients.

For want of IRL in Bihar, the resistant patients are being referred from the DTC, the DOT centre, PMCH, and other TB detection centres to the Lala Ram Swaroop (LRS) Hospital, New Delhi. PMCH sources said that shortly the drug-resistant patients would be referred to IRL at Ranchi for sputum culture and sensitivity test as well.

Due to absence of IRL in Bihar, the TB control programme has been affected while the number of drug-resistant patients continues to increase. In the last seven months, around 18 resistant patients were referred to the LRS Hospital, New Delhi, from the DOT Centre, PMCH, said Dr Vijay, posted at the centre.

Principal secretary, health, Amarjeet Sinha said that equipment for the IRLs has already reached the DTC and RMRI and the IRLs would start functioning from September this year. He said that under the TB control programme, the number of designated microscopic centres for detection and treatment of TB has been increased from 400 to 550 in the state and the target is to set up a total 900 microscopic centres. These centres would detect the drug-resistant patients for tests and treatment, he said. Training of the technicians to man these centres is underway, he added.

Sources in the PMCH said that the TB control programme has got virtually out of control after shifting of the 60-bed DTC from PMCH campus to Agamkuan where it is not delivering as per the requirement due to shortage of equipment. The TB patients rush from the DTC to the DOT centre, PMCH, and also to PMCH’s department of TB and chest diseases for treatment, to get medicines, and also for reference to the LRS Hospital in case of drug- resistant patients, sources added.

Dr Vijay said that the DTC would be able to deliver well only after setting up of the IRL. He said that the government provides medicines for treatment of TB patients free, but many patients after initial treatment by private doctors stop taking medicines. Due to this such patients develop resistance to drugs. Treatment of such patients is very costly, beyond the reach of the poor patients, he said, adding that the responsibility of the government has, as a result, increased.

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