It is necessary for the government to fill up all the vacancies in the sector, says Tuberculosis Employees Association

For Tamil Nadu’s Revised National Tuberculosis Programme to run as per schedule, and for it to increase its case detection and cure rates, it is necessary for the government to fill up all the vacancies in the sector, members of the Tuberculosis Employees Association have said.

In Tamil Nadu, in a number of districts the posts of Deputy Director –TB are vacant, explains R.Jayamurugan, the association’s treasurer, said. “While we have achieved a lot in the State through the RNTCP, our fear is that these vacancies will undermine the effectiveness of intervention,” he added. The DD-TB is an important post, and as all activities are coordinated through this office, any scaling up is possible only when an officer is appointed to the post, they add.

In addition, those appointed as District TB Centre Medical Officers have been posted as ‘part-time’ staff or have been deployed to do work in non-TB areas, M.Anandan, president of the association, said. “These are the medical professionals who are at the helm of affairs, and they are trained in state-of-the-art strategies, they can decide on appropriate treatment for the patients. Without them, patients can only go to Primary Health Centres,” he explained. This may lead to missing out or creating more resistant TB cases, according to him.

“We are really worried about the lack of standards for universal protection here. Field staff like us, and laboratory assistants too, often do not have masks or gloves, as the RNTCP does not provide for it. We are dealing with infectious cases of TB, even resistant strains. We demand protection,” S. Anandhan, joint secretary, said.

Even the salary paid to these contract workers is de-motivating, the members said. While the Central TB Division has fixed salaries at a higher plane, in the past, the State government has given much less.

For instance, in the 2009 revision, while the CTD fixed the slab at Rs. 12,000, the State fixed it at Rs. 8,625 (for the categories of Senior Treatment and Senior Treatment Laboratory Supervisor).

In fact in 2010, there was a phase when these workers had to repay part of their salary as the new State rates kicked in, and they had to return the excess that had been paid as per the CTD scale of pay in the interim.

“We are only asking to be paid what the CTD has fixed, not a penny more, not a penny less,” Mr. Anandhan added.

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