By Aparna Banerji
10th June – Tribune News Service – Jalandha, India
A month after as many as 35 patients of thalassaemia at the local Civil Hospital were infected with Hepatitis C due to faulty blood transfusions, things continue to remain the same as follow-up treatment of thalassaemia patients continues at a languid pace due to the government treatment norms for free treatment of Hepatitis C patients covering only children above 14 years of age.
In the past one month, 38 of the patients at the ward have tested positive for Hepatitis C (initially there were 35).
Of the 35 patients, who had initially tested positive for Hepatitis C, the follow-up treatment of only five has begun so far.
While the cause for the patients contracting the infection was put to the 60-day window period of the traditional blood transfusion technique, health experts had also stressed on the need for NAT testing for thalassaemic patients at the ward which reduces the window periods of the Hepatitis C infection to merely three days.
However, even as MP Santokh Chaudhary had then stressed that he would ensure NAT testing machine at the hospital from his own funds if the Health Department failed to provide one, a month on, things remain quite the same.
TS Bhatia of the Thalassemic Children Welfare Society, which runs the thalassaemia ward at the Jalandhar Civil Hospital, said, “Members of the association from across the state have written to the CM and the Health Minister on the issue. Unless the NAT machine is brought in, there is no way to detect Hepatitis C infection well in time. But that hasn’t happened so far, so we are stuck with the old method. As far as restesting is concerned, all the patients shall be retested at camp to be held at the hospital in August. Of those who had contracted hepatitis C, five patients above the age of 18 have begun receiving free treatment for the ailment, but the rest haven’t so far.”
Sources said, “Since the currently available scheme for Hepatitis C patients by the state government isn’t for children below 14 years, it is currently being administered to only five who are above the age of 18. The society is mulling ensuring treatment from the PGI for the rest. But so far there is no government provision for the same.”
MS Dr KS Bawa said, “We believe the tests of all thalassaemic children at the Civil Hospital have been conducted and 36 have tested positive for Hepatitis C. As far as the NAT testing machine is concerned, one of our officials had gone for demonstration regarding the same at PHSC Mohali so the process to get it is underway.”
Dr Tarsem Lal, nodal officer for the follow-up treatment on the patients of the Thalassemia ward, said, “All patients shall be sent for follow-up at the PGI Chandigarh only. While the treatment for three patients has begun, the rest will be sent soon. All patients who have so far received any treatment shall be reimbursed the money. An extensive work up of all the hepatitis C positive patients has first been conducted.”
The board of two doctors – Dr Tarsem Lal, physician and Dr Vijender Singh paediatrician — has been constituted to look into the follow up treatment of the thalassaemia patients.
At the August camp as well, parents would be expected to pay Rs 800 from their own pockets to get the wards tested. The society has, however, assured tests at concessional rates for poor patients.