‘Lack of proper testing & diagnosis facilities in state’
Kohima, JulY 28: Nagaland joined the rest of the world today in observing the World Hepatitis Day on the theme ‘Test, Treat Hepatitis’.
Speaking at the main programme jointly organized by Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS), NUN and Kripa Foundation at Hotel Japfü here, former president Nagaland Users’ Network (NUN) Ketho Angami lamented that despite Viral Hepatitis, particularly Hepatitis C becoming an urgent health concern, the Health Department of Nagaland has failed the patients of Nagaland by not providing any sort of treatment and care support.
“We still continue to count dead bodies, and those few lucky ones who are able to undergo treatment also had to undergo many hardships due to lack of proper testing and diagnosis facilities and also having to pay for the exorbitant price for their treatment,” he said.
He also expressed concern that adding to this, some doctors are prescribing the wrong treatment regimens and charge unaffordable prices simply benefitting the pharmaceutical companies.
“Inspite of our advocacy and the Government being aware of the high disease burden, the Health Department have just being a mute listener and for which IDSP and NHM have to be held accountable for the increase of new infections and every HBV and HCV related deaths,” Angami alleged.
The health activist pointed out that it was really disheartening to know that the National Viral Hepatitis Prevention and Control program, which was being launched today in Delhi, has not included Nagaland in its programme because of the mere fact that the state’s policy makers had failed to advocate for this at the national level neither has the NHM proposed any sort of such programs in their Annual Action Plan (AAP).
He stated that activists have pushed this burning agenda and flagged the need for the state government to start initiating certain programs but nothing has happened.
“Alongside we started creating awareness for HBV and HCV prevention and treatment without any support from the government nor any funders, we started advocating with the Generic pharmas for price reduction and have started to put people on treatment, we went on to understanding more of the Central and state government’s initiatives by filing RTI at NCDC, NACO, NSACS and Health department. And we see people waiting to be put on treatment but along the way we also see people dying,” he lamented. He said, “We cannot continue to let people die because of the lack of leadership and commitment from the government of Nagaland and the Health Department.”
The state government has to provide health care since it is a state subject, and Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees protection of life and personal liberty to every citizen, he reminded.
Towards this, he also pointed out the Supreme Court has held that the right to live with human dignity, enshrined in Article 21, derives from the Directive Principles of State Policy and therefore includes protection of health.
“Further, it has also been held that the right to health is integral to the right to life and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities. Failure of a government hospital to provide a patient timely medical treatment results in violation of the patient’s right to life. Similarly, the Court has upheld the state’s obligation to maintain health services,” he added.
If the state and its concerned department continue to shun the gravity of viral hepatitis and the burden it was causing on the citizens, health activists would take up legal course to pursue for the people’s rights. “We will soon have to meet in the court,” he announced in the presence of the officials of the health department including the director of the department himself.
Ketho, member Nagaland Users Network, stated that state prevalence rates of Hepatitis in Phek is 8.7% and Wokha 20.8%, Dimapur 9.1% prevalence respectively, which the state government and concern health department need to take up the initiatives seriously to ensured concrete strategy for the benefit of the people.
In his address, Director Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Tokuho Chishi agreed that every person deserves the right to a dignified human life. With issues regarding procurement of medicines, he said there were specific requirements such as the temperature conditions in which the drugs should be stored etc. He also stated that there were lots of pharmaceutical companies whose drugs although same, their prices differ. Therefore, he said doctors were in no way involved in manufacturing drugs, and denied the allegation that doctors were involved in making business out of medicines.
Dr. Chishi asserted that the problem with the cost of medicines arises due to the absence of a drug regulating authority. On the other hand, he implied that pharmaceutical companies have a huge influence. Therefore, he said, instead of crucifying the department, the NGOs should also try to approach the Prime Minister’s office as the Prime Minister has the power to change the existing system. With regard to lack of data, the department head said the World Health Organisation was also to blame as nowhere in the Sustainable Development Goals is hepatitis mentioned.
Dr.Kejavisa Savino Medical Officer ,Oking Hospital Kohima while delivering the treatment issues of viral Hepatitis in Nagaland said that treatment decisions should balance the anticipated reduction in transmission versus the likelihood of re-infection in patients whose risk of HCV (Hepatitis C virus) transmission was high and in whom HCV treatment may result in a reduction in transmission.
He said the treatment goals should achieve the sustained eradication of HCV which is defined as the persistent absence of HCV RNA in seren 3-6 months or more after completing antiviral treatment, prevent progression to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and decompensated liner disease requiring liver transplantation. (Page News Service)