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TB accounts for 18 deaths in Mumbai everyday, says study by NGO
Data released by NGO Praja on Wednesday has revealed that not only does Tuberculosis (TB) account for the deaths of 18 Mumbaikars everyday, but the percentage of Mumbaikars abandoning the rigorous TB treatment mid-way had increased from 9 per cent in 2012 to 19 per cent in 2016-17.

By using RTI to analyze data from BMC's health department, NGO Praja brings out its annual health report.

Civic health officials have, however, dismissed the NGO's report. Civic TB officer Daksha Shah said, "A health programme cannot be analysed based on some data randomly gathered using RTI."

In reality, in its RTI reply, the BMC public health department had asked Praja to analyse the data available with Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) officials.

Standing by the report, Praja's Milind Mhaske said, "There is clearly something wrong with BMC's TB control programme. 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."

For its annual health report, Praja uses information mentioned in the death certificates to calculate the death toll from various diseases. However, the BMC is opposed to this procedure as its officials feel that death certificates are not filled out scientifically.

The BMC is currently in the process of conducting educational programmes for doctors on how to fill information in death certificates as per World Health Organisation (WHO) norms.

On Wednesday, at a press conference, 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."

However, BMC officials have said that the report has been put together "unscientifically". A senior BMC official said on Wednesday that Praja had sought data about "new registrations" in 2016 from the BMC.

The official said, "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."

According to the BMC, Praja should have ideally asked for the total number of patients under treatment in a particular year. Dr Shah said that as the data was collected by Praja from dispensaries, hospitals and the public health department, there was a possibility of lot of duplication.

Dr Shah added that the BMC had done an analysis on the number of patients who had dropped out of treatment. She said, "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 of alcoholics."

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