Doctors may face jail if failed to notify TB cases

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Doctors and chemists can be jailed if they don't report TB

At the summit, PM Modi said that the government has been following the principle of "treat every TB patient best at the very first opportunity". "The aim is primarily to improve notification [of TB patients] from the private sector", said Sunil Kharpade, an official involved in India's TB control programme.

Chemists and hospital staff treating tuberculosis (TB) patients, who don't inform health authorities about them, could face up to two years in jail, says a notification by the Union Health Ministry.

Section 270 says a malignant act likely to spread infectious disease unsafe to life could land a person in jail for up to two years, or with fine, or both.

By term Clinical establishments Act 2010, the ministry means medical establishments, hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, diagnostic services, including those operated by a single doctor.

While tuberculosis was made a notifiable disease in India in 2012, there was no provision for penal action.

The first one (Section 269) relates to "negligent act likely to spread infection of disease risky to life" and comes with the penal provisions of imprisonment of six months or fine or both.

"The clinical establishment, pharmacy, chemist and druggist, failing to notify a tuberculosis patient to the nodal officer...not taking appropriate public health action on receiving tuberculosis patient ..., may attract the provisions of sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), as the case may be", the notification said.

As per health report, TB kills an estimated 4,80,000 Indians every year. This could be an underestimated number as the analysis did not account for cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In Chhattisgarh, almost 24,000 additional TB cases were identified by the health department after officials visited the pharmacies and checked copies of the prescriptions.

The ministry's notification has also made it mandatory for government health officers to track the notified TB patients by visiting them at home and ensuring that they follow the treatment prescribed to them, The Telegraph reported. India also has more than a million "missing" cases every year - these are not notified and most remain either undiagnosed or inadequately diagnosed and treated in the private sector. The country has the highest burden of both TB and drug resistant TB.

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