There are around 18 deaths in Mumbai because of tuberculosis (TB) daily and the number of Mumbaikars opting out of demanding TB treatment redoubled from 9% in 2012 to 19% in 2016-17, the latest information released by NGO Praja said on Wednesday.
However, civic officials rejected the NGO's analysis. "A health programme cannot be analysed based on some data randomly gathered using RTI," said civic TB officer Dr Daksha Shah.
The truth is that, the BMC public health department had, in its RTI reply, asked Praja to examine the data with Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) officials.
Praja officials were unyielding. "There is clearly something wrong with BMC's TB control programme," said Praja's Milind Mhaske. "There has been a sharp drop in the number of people signing up with the RNTCP for treatment. This shows people prefer to go to the private sector for treatment. Moreover, the drop-out rate in the government programme has increased from 9% in 2012 to 19% in 2016," he added.
Praja brings out an annual health report, scrutinizing data collected from BMC's health department with the use of RTI. It utilizes information cited in death certificates to compute the death toll because of various diseases - a step the BMC is against as its officials say the death certificates are not scientifically filled out (BMC is in the process of conducting educational programmes for doctors on how to fill a death certificate in accordance with World Health Organisation norms).
At a press conference held on Wednesday, Mhaske said, "Mumbai's health budget for 2017-18 was Rs 3,312 crore. This is only marginally lower than the entire budget for Thane Municipal Corporation (Rs 3,390 crore). Yet, there is a lot more that needs to be done."
BMC officials said the data was irrationally put together. A senior BMC official on Wednesday was quoted as saying that Praja pursued data about "new registrations" in 2016 from the BMC.
"We replied that new registrations are 15,767. Now, TB treatment stretches from six months to three years, leading to some patients continuing treatment for years," said the official. Praja should have preferably requested for total number of patients taking treatment in a particular year. Dr Shah further said that Praja data could contain lot of duplication as it had gathered data from dispensaries, hospitals as well as the public health department.
She added the BMC had done an examination of the number of defaulters. "Around 30% of the defaulters' list is made up of migrants who return home as soon as they feel better. The second major group is alcoholics," said Dr Shah.