17 healthcare providers at TB Centre infected, 7 die

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Around 17 healthcare providers, including doctors working at the Federal Government Tuberculosis Center (FGTC), Rawalpindi, contracted tuberculosis while treating patients and seven of them died, disclosed Federal Special Secretary Health Mirza Nasiruddin Mashhood Ahmed while speaking at an event organized in connection with the World TB Day 2023 at the PIMS here on Wednesday.


The ceremony to commemorate the world event was organized by the Common Management Unit (CMU) for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO).

Senior officials from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, WHO, UNAIDS, infectious diseases experts and partner organizations attended the event. Mirza urged the TB control programme officials to show commitment for eradication of this infectious disease.

“Today, I’m not feeling very proud to commemorate the World TB Day 2023 today when Pakistan ranks 5th amongst the high burden countries in the world and 4th having Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB burden in the world. Even 17 healthcare givers at the TB Center in Rawalpindi contracted the infectious disease and seven of them, including a doctor, lost their lives”, he said. The special secretary health maintained that a lot of efforts were required to reduce the burden of TB in Pakistan.

Mirza said he was ‘shocked’ to see the situation at the TB center and added that he had the courage to admit that the situation was not very good at the treatment center and needed immediate corrective measures to saves the lives of both the patients and the healthcare givers.

“My first concern is that the caregivers working at the TB center should be protected. It’s a shame that they are not protected while treating the infected patients,” he said. The health secretary further disclosed that he was the only top official from the ministry who visited the TB Center in the last five years.

Calling for ‘real interventions’ instead of cosmetic measures in the healthcare sector, the special health secretary requested the WHO and other partners to assist the government in improving the situation at the Federal Government TB center and other such facilities across the country.

WHO representative in Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala said TB was not only a public health concern but also a social issue and without involving the civil society, it was not easy to eradicate the disease.

He said it was heartening to note the involvement of civil society organizations with the federal and provincial TB control programs. “Integrating TB diagnostic and care to primary healthcare is the way forward and Pakistan is one of the best countries to quote an example for focusing on the primary healthcare”, he said and also lauded the CMU for the first time in the history of Pakistan for submitting all the proposals in time for funding from the Global Fund for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in Pakistan.

“A huge chunk of money – more than 280 million US dollars, will be coming to Pakistan which will really strengthen the health system in Pakistan”, he added. He said around 147,000 patients were missed annually and urged for focusing on diagnostics, confirming the TB cases through diagnostic tests and keeping an eye on the dropouts. He also called for the WHO recommended TB’s preventive treatment.