Objective: To understand barriers to tuberculosis (TB) care among migrant TB patients in Shanghai after the introduction of the TB-free treatment policy which has applied to migrants since 2003, and to provide policy recommendations to improve TB control in migrant populations in big cities. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 34 migrant patients who registered on the Shanghai TB programme as new bacteria positive pulmonary TB cases. Patients were purposively selected across six districts of Shanghai to give a balance of gender and TB treatment phase. Results: Financial constraints were reported as the biggest barriers to TB service among migrant patients. Many migrant patients experienced high medical costs both before and after their TB diagnosis. The government free treatment policy only covered a small fraction of patient total costs. However, respondents tended to stay in Shanghai for treatment because their families were in Shanghai, they were more confident with the quality of medical care there or they felt they could not earn cash at home. Migrant patients had a limited knowledge of TB and the free TB treatment policy, and reported being laid off from work or avoided after having TB. Conclusions: Health system problems caused the biggest barrier to migrant patient access to TB care. The free treatment policy alone has little, if any, effect in reducing migrant patient financial stress: it is also essential to provide social welfare, including living subsidies, for poor migrant TB patients. [Summary available in French and Spanish].
Tropical Medicine & International Health (2009) 14 (7) 754-760 [DOI:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02286.x].