Mumbai’s Sewri hospital is Asia’s largest hospital for TB treatment but for the past three months it has become a deathbed for many as docs refuse to operate cases. A report in DNA says that almost 10 people die every day at the 1000-bed hospital, and not a single surgery has been conducted in the last three months. The hospital officials refused to comment on the issue or acknowledge it.
‘Only one surgery was conducted at the start of the year, in January. Since then, the lack of an anaesthesia machine for almost a month and the refusal of doctors at major civic hospitals like Sion, Nair and KEM, to assist in operations, has led to surgeries being put off over the past three months,’ said a senior doctor at the hospital.
The Operation Theatres at the Sewri TB hospital had been closed for six years but reopened after the multi-drug-resistant TB scare last year. Since then, over 40 patients have been operated upon, 12 of them with drug-resistant TB and only one patient died due to the disease. Suhas Katwate, who was operated on in November, describes himself as one of the lucky ones. ‘I was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2002 and suffered for ten years, until the specialists at the hospital gave me hope and operated on me,’ said the 30-year-old resident of Jogeshwari. A portion of his TB-infected lung was removed.
‘In a month’s time, the tests showed that I was free of tuberculosis bacteria. I was elated after the torture that I went through for ten years. It is really sad that surgeries are not taking place over the past three months. I hope that the problem is solved soon, as hundreds of lives are at stake,’ Katwate told DNA. Nearly 50 new cases are admitted at the Sewri TB hospital daily. And the mortality is appalling. ‘In a day, about 10 patients die at the hospital. At times, the number goes up to even 20. Operating on a patient can make him well. But with surgeries stalled the lives of many are in jeopardy,’ an insider said.
The surgical programme was started with a lot of enthusiasm last year but hit numerous roadblocks and impasses. They had trouble finding doctors willing to operate and also anaesthetists for the operation. According to the civic body 3003 patients were diagnosed with MDR-TB but there is no case of XXDR-TB in the city.
No XXDR-TB in Mumbai?
In other TB-related news, civic officials in Mumbai claimed that no one in the city was suffering from the extra extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XXDR-TB), and all six patients who had initially been categorised to have that TB strain were doing well and responding to medication.
Last year, PD Hinduja Hospital in the city had diagnosed 12 patients with a deadly TB strain that didn’t respond to any known drugs and created quite a stir all around the world. The diagnoses sparked a furious debate about the dangers of XXDR-TB, which had so far been reported in only Iran, India and Italy, and what it could mean if there was an outbreak in a crowded metropolis like Mumbai.
Since then six patients have died of the disease and the TB officer of Mumbai Dr Khetarpal claimed that the patients responded when administered a combo of the drugs. Six surviving patients had been downgraded to extensively drug-resistant TB category. BMC executive health officer Dr Arun Bamne said the six surviving patients have now been downgraded to the extensively drug resistant (XDR) tuberculosis category. ‘There are currently 44 patients in the city suffering from XDR tuberculosis and we regularly follow up with them,’ he said. The civic body also assured people that the long-dormant lung program at Sewri hospital.
Tuberculosis is a common infectious disease caused by bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis which affects the lungs. Main symptoms of TB are severe cough that lasts for three weeks or longer, bloody or discoloured sputum, night sweats, fever, fatigue and weakness, pain in the chest, loss of appetite, and pain during breathing or coughing. India had the highest total number of TB cases worldwide in 2010 partly due to poor disease management by the private healthcare sector. TB can be prevented by vaccination and maintaining high levels of hygiene. One infected, the patient should follow the medication regimen properly. By not doing so, there are chances of developing resistance to anti-TB drugs resulting in an aggressive form of TB called MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB).