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TB health workers rue lack of safety gears

Reshma Ravishanker, Bangalore, feb 18, 2014, DHNS : 1:21 IST
Doctors, activists and social workers under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) live under the fear of being infected by various respiratory infections as they have reportedly not been provided adequate safety gears.

Tuberculosis Health Visitors, speaking to Deccan Herald, claimed that they were not provided basic protective gears such as aprons, gloves and N95 masks as a result of which they might contract Mycobacterium tuberculosis that can be fatal.

“We work day in and day out with these patients. We work with zero safety
measures,” said one of Tuberculosis Health Visitors (TBHV). He said it involves high risk as workers are continuously interacting with the patients. “We do not just educate them but also, there are times when we have to visit their homes personally and convince them to take medication,” he added.

“We fall sick often, thanks to lack of facilities,” explained Girish, one of the workers under RNTCP programme besides adding that they were not permitted to go on sick leave. “We also deal with Multi-Drug-Resistant TB cases sometimes. Are we not under high risk,” he questioned. There are over 175 TBHVs in the State.

Further, lab technicians who are in direct contact with the sputum of patient too, raised their voice against similar conditions prevailing across the State. “We are about 175 of us in the State. We are the ones who collect the sputum of the patient and also discard it. We do not have adequate aprons,” a lab technician added.

The workers also demanded that N95 masks be provided to them. Dr Satish B R, medical professional under District Tuberculosis Control Unit added that it was ideal that these masks that were priced at Rs 75 be provided to all workers and be discarded every six hours. “Not just that, even during H1N1 break-outs, we manage with normal masks,” he added.

However, Dr Shashidhar Buggi, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases said workers were provided three layered masks which could be disposed at the end of the day. Even during outbreaks of H1N1, he said same masks were used. “It is ideal that patients be given masks,” he added. “The doctors will also have to take additional measures such as washing hands often and patients asked not to spit,” Dr Buggi concluded.

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