Punjab embarks free treatment & testing of Hepatitis B

Chandigarh: Achieving another remarkable feat, Punjab introduced free testing and treatment of Hepatitis B in all Government Health Institutions.

Presiding over the statewide launch of the initiative at District Hospital Mohali, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu informed that Captain Amarinder Singh led Punjab Government has introduced Hepatitis B screening tests and treatment in all medical colleges, District Hospitals (DHs), Sub-Divisional Hospitals (SDHs) and Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART), Oral Substitution Therapy (OST) centers. In addition, Hepatitis B viral load testing facility will be extended at 27 centres, free of cost for the well being of marginalized sections.

State Health Department has entered into a rate contract with Oncquest Laboratories under which they have provided a Laboratory Technician at every District Hospital and Government Medical College. Hepatitis B samples will be taken at these institutions from the patient free of cost, while the cost of the test will be reimbursed to the lab at the rate of Rs. 851 by the state government.

The line of treatment for Hepatitis B is extensive and expensive but the state government will give free medicine to the concerned. Even the Hepatitis B positive Punjab patients under treatment in PGI will be provided medicine free of cost, informed HM and added that a nodal officer has been deputed in PGI for the same and has been handed over stock of requisite medicines.

All patients infected with HIV, persons under treatment at OST centres and all pregnant women will be extended the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C testing free of cost. Any Rapid test positive will be followed by free viral load test.

All the Medical Specialists and Doctors of Punjab who treat Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C have been trained by Dr. Varinder Singh Professor and Head Hepatology Department PGI and more training will be imparted in future.

Pertinently, Punjab was the first state in the country to introduce free test and treatment for Hepatitis C about five years ago. The Hepatitis C Treatment Centres have been increased from 25 to 66. So far about 96,000 patients in Punjab have been treated for Hepatitis C free of cost. Their cure rate is 93%. The treatment of Hepatitis C was continued even during pandemic. In the year 2020, about 12000 patients were treated for Hepatitis C and by May 2021, approximately 4900 patients have been treated.

Replying to query pertaining probable third wave of COVID19, Health Minister informed that bed capacity and infrastructure in health institutions is being augmented, PSA plants are being set up at maximum hospitals and continuous recruitment of Medical and paramedical staff is going on to meet the challenge. Recruitment of 620 new Medical Officers is in pipeline, informed HM.

Simultaneously, full thrust is on COVID Vaccination; about 61 lakh people have been vaccinated so far and awareness activities and testing has been increased in rural areas, he added while cautioned the people against lowering the guard and exhorted them to abide by COVID19 safety guidelines.

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