A total of 66 employees at the Tuberculosis Hospital in Sewri here contracted the disease in the past five years, authorities said in reply to an RTI query. Such a discovery may be indicative of a lack of safety and sanitation protocols at the hospital that is putting the lives of both staff and patients at risk.
Of the employees that contracted TB, seventeen eventually died from the illness, 39 were successfully treated and ten were still undergoing treatment according to TB hospital medical superintendent Lalit Anande.
While contraction of a disease is always a possibility when working with infectious diseases, correct safety measures should minimise these risks considerably.
TB is spread via bacteria-containing droplets which are produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. Small amounts of the bacteria are typically fought off by the immune system of a healthy individual, however, long periods of exposure to an infected individual can result in infection.
Contact with droplets that have settled on objects are not seen to be a risk as the infection is of the throat and lungs, therefore it is necessary that the bacteria is inhaled for an infection to occur. Due to this simple safety procedures such as the use of masks may drastically lower the chance of a person being infected.
Between 2013-2018 the range of employees who were infected with TB was diverse, indicating the issues due not derive from a singular section of the hospital. Of those infected, 49 were labourers, eleven were nurses, two doctors and a lab technician, radiographer, pharmacist and official had contracted the disease.
It was noted that 2013 was the most severe year, with 32 staff members contracting tuberculosis and ten dying.
Pradip Narkar, secretary of the Municipal Mazdoor Union, was reported to have said that the organisation have had to fight to ensure staff at the hospital got N95 masks and other equipment to protect themselves from contracting TB. The implication of this is that the hospital is not doing enough to ensure that staff remain safe from contracting the disease.
While India has placed an ambitious goal of the elimination of TB by 2025, the current situation makes this seem all but impossible. Drug-resistant cases of TB are rising in India, situations such as the lapsed safety protocols in TB hospitals are not helping this situation. Unless resources are put in place and political measures implemented to prioritise TB, the situation may be out of control in just a few short years. If drug resistance is not addressed then front line medications will be all but useless, allowing the disease to run rampant throughout India.