Tuberculosis is the illness, the authorities – the diagnosis
The title to this report was just one of the banners displayed during a picket on Tuesday, 24 March organized by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. The picket was timed to coincide with World TB Day and held outside the Kharkiv Mayors Office in protest at the extraordinary measures taken by the city authorities in radically cutting facilities. The protesters held camomile flowers, which were the symbol of the fight against tuberculosis in Russia from the end of the XIX Century.
Other banners had stern warnings not just about the tragic statistics regarding tuberculosis in the world, but about the likely consequences of the irrational and reckless actions of the city authorities.
How can you reduce the number of beds, closing down entire tuberculosis units, when there are not enough as it is&
How can you expect patients to relocate to clinics in the region where their relatives will be unable to visit and bring them the food the clinics themselves are unable to provide?
How can the regions clinics cope with extra patients when they are already struggling?
Deputy Mayor Ihor Shurma came out and tried to persuade the picketers that the city authorities actions were correct. His argument was basically that the money for treating tuberculosis patients should come from the regional budget. Members of KHPG responded that the authorities were criminally irresponsible with their actions likely to lead in one or two years to an outbreak of tuberculosis in the city.
WHO says that one should only reduce the number of beds in clinics where the prevalence of the disease is no higher than 20 per 100 thousand head of population, and mortality – 10 per 100 thousand. 40 per 100 thousand is considered epidemic proportions. In the Kharkiv region there are 73 people with tuberculosis per 100 thousand, and the mortality rate is rising. What is even more worrying is the rise in mortality among those whose illness had not been identified.