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Telangana: TB claimed more lives than Covid-19

by Vaishali Sharma

HYDERABAD:  Officials figures published in an RTI response revealed that in 2020, the number of people who died of Tuberculosis (TB) was nearly double the Covid-19 casualties in Telangana. While TB claimed 2,784 lives in the State, Covid-19 killed 1,544 people, the response stated.

The RTI was filed by Varsha Bhargavi, an activist. She said, “A TB patient I was assisting, Bhagyamma, suffered a lot due to medical negligence all through last year. Initially, the PHC in Maredpally, where she used to get her routine medication from, refused to let her inside at least four times as she did not have a Covid-19 negative report. In November, 2020, this was very difficult, as the test was not done unless one was symptomatic. She then went to Erragadda Chest Hospital, and they referred her to Gandhi Hospital for a sputum test. She was again denied treatment there, and passed away within a month.”

Varsha said that the direct transfer benefit of `500 a month for TB patients was also delayed for most part of 2020. “The lockdown made it harder for patients to access medicines. That was why Bhagyamma had to discontinue her treatment. TB officials, who usually visit homes of patients for follow ups, couldn’t do it anymore during the pandemic. This made things worse for Bhagyamma,” she added.

TB works have taken a hit on the State-level too. Telangana wanted to eradicate TB from 10 districts, but the programme had to be postponed due to the pandemic. “TB is a bigger problem than Covid-19, but the number of deaths due to TB has not increased year after year. Last year, we saw nearly 80,000 cases in the State, for which the death rate was up to 4 per cent. However, the pandemic has had an adverse impact on TB prevention work as the staff had to be put on Covid-19 duty,” said Dr A Rajesham, joint director of State TB Cell.

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