Private hospitals to the rescue of TB patients
KABUL, 5 May 2010 (IRIN) - Eight private hospitals
will soon provide free tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and
treatment in Kabul in an effort to curb the disease
which kills thousands of people every year in
Afghanistan, according to the Ministry of Public
About 70 private hospitals operate in Kabul, but
none offer TB diagnosis and treatment services,
Under an agreement backed by the UN World Health
Organization (WHO), the eight private hospitals will
receive laboratory kits and medicines from the MoPH to
serve TB patients. Training has also been provided by
the National TB Control Programme (NTCP) to ensure
accurate diagnosis and treatment.
“Undoubtedly a lot of TB patients go to private
hospitals where we want them to have access to
services as in government hospitals,” Khaled Siddiq,
director of the NTCP, told IRIN.
Thirty TB treatment centres are serving Kabul’s
estimated four million citizens and over 1,850 TB
patients sought treatment there in 2009, Siddiq said.
MoPH officials said the current pilot project is
expected to be extended to almost all private
hospitals across the country provided the outcomes are
Private health sector
Muhammad Hashim Wahaaj, director of a private
hospital in Kabul, said middle-class Afghans are
increasingly seeking health services at commercial
hospitals because they can get better quality
Healthcare professionals earn more in private
hospitals than in state hospitals, where doctors are
paid US$60-120 a month.
In addition to brain-drain problems, state-run
hospitals, which offer free services, are usually
packed with people who cannot afford private
“Delivering TB diagnosis and treatment services
free of charge will have two benefits for us: we
fulfil our national and religious commitment in terms
of fighting a national disease; and when TB patients
receive satisfactory services in private hospitals
this is great marketing for us,” Wahaaj told IRIN.
Commercial healthcare is a new and booming business
in Afghanistan which has some of the worst health
indicators in the world, according to aid agencies.
However, there have been complaints about standards
in private hospitals.
“They just rob people and no one is there to stop
them,” alleged Haroun Waffa, a paediatrician.
Over the past few years the MoPH and donors have
preferred partnering with NGOs to extend basic health
services to over 80 percent of the country.
The MoPH said it would monitor the quality of TB
services at the eight private hospitals.
Women hit hardest
Afghanistan, where about 9,000 people die from TB
every year, is among the 22 worst affected countries
in the world, according to WHO and MoPH.
About 64 percent (33,000) of the total 51,000 TB
cases reported in 2009 were women, who are believed to
be particularly vulnerable to the highly contagious
Endemic poverty, food insecurity, poor diagnosis
and treatment, and low public awareness are the major
factors contributing to TB in the war-ravaged country,
Backed by donors, Afghanistan has increased its
Directly Observed Therapy centres from 10 in 2000 to
over 1,000 in 2009, and this has enhanced TB diagnosis
and treatment capacity, according to the MoPH.
The introduction of TB services at private
hospitals will strengthen efforts to curb the disease
but it will not be eradicated unless other
socio-economic problems associated with the disease
are not addressed effectively, experts said.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]
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