Panama becomes the third country in the Americas to adopt a specialized TB law
Official data from Panama indicate that tuberculosis (TB) is responsible for taking about 200 lives a year in the country. In addition, the report of the National Tuberculosis Program of the Ministry of Health states that, since 2017, 5,669 people have fallen ill with TB, including 558 this year alone.
To address the problem and promote country's population health, the National Assembly of Panama passed Law 169 of 2020, which establishes the legal framework for the control and prevention of tuberculosis in the country. With this step, Panama becomes one of the few countries in Latin America to legislate for the benefit of those affected by this disease, followed by Peru and Guatemala.
The bill was a proposal by Congressman Víctor Castillo, a member of the Global TB Caucus. The sanctioned legislation protects the rights of affected people, including workers with the disease, who may only be dismissed for a justified cause and with prior judicial authorization from the sectional labor courts.
Member of Parliament, Víctor Castillo declared that this new law provides an advantage to eliminate TB, since it allocates financial resources to support the strategy and protects the rights of people affected by the disease, seeking to reduce the stigma and discrimination suffered by people affected by TB. The member of the Global TB Caucus also pointed out that this year a discouraging outlook is expected in terms of the timely treatment of these patients, given that many, because they do not go out to be exposed to COVID-19, will stop receiving medications and their respective medical monitoring. This will reduce the timely diagnosis and early treatment of people with the disease, putting at risk setbacks in progress in coping with the disease in recent years.
According to the legislation, all support will be given to these patients so that they are not discriminated against in their social and work environment. In addition, it is expected that the Ministry of Health will promote, in conjunction with private companies and the Panamanian Anti-Tuberculosis Organization (OPAT), prevention and control activities. The law also contemplates that patients affected by tuberculosis are included in social assistance programs to alleviate the costs of the disease, transportation to health centers or food.
Hon Castillo also advocates for strengthening of the information and surveillance system to effectively integrate the data of the Ministry of Health and the Social Security Fund. For him, the communication of both systems would facilitate case management, estimation of drug needs and consequently significant savings to the health system.