The state-run medical college will now not only handle advanced cases of drug-resistant TB but will also coordinate with other medical institutes across eastern India as part of the National Tuberculosis Elimination programme, curated by the Central TB Division under the ministry of health and family welfare. “In 2014, we were given the responsibility of handling all difficult cases of drug resistant TB (DRTB) for North 24 Parganas. After five years, we were made the nodal centre for handling DRTB. Now, we have been selected as the Centre of Excellence for DRTB for the entire eastern region,” said R G Kar respiratory medicine head Susmita Kundu.
Under the Centre of Excellence, the respiratory medicine unit at R G Kar will work on building a hub as well as a model for capacity building of nodal and district centres for drug-resistant TB. All the facilities will be linked with R G Kar, ensuring high quality care. The centre will support these nodal and district centres with feedback and referral services for difficult cases. “We expect to take off by September with telemedicine services by connecting with the centres who need our assistance on difficult to treat cases,” said Kundu. In addition to quality patient care, the R G Kar Centre will be involved in various activities, including research projects on the disease and study new drugs in the pipeline. Later, it may also start academic courses.
India accounts for 27% of all multi-drug resistant TB globally. According to the data with the central TB division, around 22 lakh TB cases were notified from across the nation in 2019. While UP reported the highest number of cases, with about 20% of its population being affected by the disease, Bengal had about 5% of its population suffering from TB. But health experts said the disease was notifiable, but many did not even come for treatment mostly due to lack of awareness and absence of basic healthcare facilities, especially in the rural areas. So, they added, the number was under-reported. “Also many of those who had contracted TB over the past one-and-a-half year, did not seek treatment as they did not visit any hospital amid the pandemic. So, many more cases were not reported,” said a health department official.
“We may require additional manpower, upgrading of the respiratory care unit, adding more cabins for treating patients with multiple drug-resistant TB and a dedicated culture lab. We have started consulting health officials at Swasthya Bhwan,” said R G Kar principal Sandip Ghosh.