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November 8, 2018

Health dept seeks annual budget of Rs800m to fight hepatitis


November 8, 2018

The Sindh Health Department has asked the government to increase the annual allocation for the hepatitis control programme from Rs300 million to Rs800 million so that it can provide complete courses of hepatitis B and C treatment to thousands of patients across the province.

According to the health department, 19,000 patients infected with hepatitis B and C viruses have been waiting for the complete treatment comprising oral medicines, but due to limited funds they cannot be provided with it.

The provincial government is already providing Rs219 million to the Aga Khan University Hospital for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of thousands of patients in Nawabshah and Larkana districts, while it has kept only Rs300 million in the current Annual Development Programme for hepatitis patients in 27 districts.

“The allocation of Rs300 million is not sufficient, as only Rs125 million have been kept for the provision of medicines to the patients,” Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said during the steering committee meeting of the hepatitis control programme on Tuesday.

Dr Azra said the health department has proposed increasing the allocation to Rs800 million so that more patients infected with viral hepatitis can be screened, diagnosed and treated throughout the province.

The meeting decided that the complete course of treatment will be provided to the diagnosed patients instead of a few days or weeks’ medicines, which do not make any impact on their health.

The meeting was informed that since its start in 2009, the programme has vaccinated 8.8 million hepatitis B patients, and treated 842,086 patients in the general population, 232,355 in the high-risk population, 527,423 schoolchildren and 52,702 prisoners. “At the moment 68,557 patients have hepatitis C, 6,797 have hepatitis B and 1,628 have hepatitis D,” programme manager Zulfiqar Dharejo told the meeting. He said the province has 62 sentinel sites and 17 centres for treating viral hepatitis.

Dr Azra asked the health department to fill all the vacant posts in the programme by advertising them in the newspapers so that the lethal disease can be eliminated once and for all. Asking the officials to mobilise all the resources at their disposal for the treatment of diagnosed patients, she stressed an immediate need to launch a large-scale advocacy and communication campaign to create awareness among the masses about hepatitis prevention, as this disease can only be eliminated through such measures.

Health Special Secretary Nasimul Ghani Sahito, Law Additional Secretary Rubina Asif, Dow University of Health Sciences Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Saeed Quraishy and others were also present in the meeting.

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