PESHAWAR, Nov 21: The number of the people seeking free hepatitis treatment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has substantially increased due to the elimination of conditions for the facility, according to officials at the provincial Health Department.
“In 2009-10, we provided free treatment to 6,000 patients. The number jumped to 10,000 next year (2010-11) and 20,000 in 2011-2012. By June next year, we will be able to provide treatment to 30,000 patients,” said an official.
The official said the people had begun visiting hospitals since the government allocated Rs1 billion for free treatment of all patients. He added that Rs500 million were released last year.
According to him, previously, the Hepatitis Control Programme offered free treatment to only the people with Zakat certificate, forcing many to stay away.“In the past, a hepatitis patient had to get registered with the local and district Zakat office if he wanted to be treated free of charge. The complex Zakat procedure had also required the patients to visit Peshawar-based hospitals and undergo certain tests before being prescribed drugs,” he said.
Under the new system, the official said, all patients underwent PCR test and get drugs prescribed to them by medical specialists in all district headquarters hospitals. They don’t need to produce Zakat certificate.
The official said sentinental sites had been established at the Lady Reading Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and Khyber Teaching hospital in Peshawar where the patients were examined in specially designated outpatient departments and given medication the same day. Contrary to the past lengthy procedure, the patients receive monthly drugs, he added.
The official said every month, the patients were evaluated and prescribed drugs and that hepatitis patients were given injections and oral medication strictly on the prescription of the specialists.
He said hepatitis C patients required six-month injection regime under supervision due to which all of them were asked to come for follow-up visits.
According to him, of the 20,000 patients registered this year, 15,000 suffered from hepatitis C, while the rest had B type of the disease. Around seven to nine per cent suffered from hepatitis C and 2-3 per cent from B in the province.
The official said Mardan, Shangla and Hangu were high-risk areas as majority of hepatitis patients came from there and that enough quantity of drugs and diagnostic services were offered to the health facilities of these districts.
He attributed the rise in the number of hepatitis patients seeking free treatment to extensive advocacy campaigns by the health department.
“We have been asking the people to avail free treatment opportunity without facing any problem. Our campaign is also focusing on the dangers associated with the viral ailment,” he said.
The officials said the department’s publicity campaign was meant to use the said amount of money before the end of the current financial year an treatment as many patients as possible because the government would release the remaining Rs500 million next year.
They said in light of the growing number of patients, they expected to spend Rs800 million, including Rs500 million allocated this year and Rs300 million left unspent during 2010-11.