The Eastern Cape Health Department saw 60,000 new TB cases last year, and at least 70 percent were HIV coinfected, according to health officials. Overcrowding has forced the province to let patients with drug-resistant TB, who are normally quarantined during treatment at Jose Pearson TB Hospital, visit their families on one-month passes.
The passes are given to multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) patients who have not responded to treatment after two years at Pearson. All such patients are thoroughly screened and are instructed to adhere to treatment daily and wear masks at all times, said Miyakazi Nokwe, Eastern Cape’s director for TB control, speaking to the Nelson Mandela Bay public health committee.
“Patients have been absconding and protesting because they feel like they are being imprisoned; they want to see their families and therefore we had to consider releasing those who have been at the hospital for a long time,” Nokwe said.
“Because of overcrowding, we could not separate the MDR and XDR patients, and therefore we feel in this way the patients will be motivated to get better quicker if they are around their families,” said Nokwe. “Also because of the overcrowding, the assumption is that the patients are re-infecting each other and not getting well.”
“We will educate the families that they need to open windows in their houses to allow for proper ventilation. It is also important to note the patients are not discharged,” but monitored closely, Nokwe said. “They will return every month for observation and tests.”
Three committee members condemned the pass system as putting the general public in danger. “This means that the issue is not handled as it should be,” Councilor Terry Herbst said regarding re-infections at Pearson.
Date of Publication
Rochelle de Kock
Africa Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR TB) Hospitalization MDR TB Morbidity Rates Persons with TB
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