The Free State has fallen short of achieving its targets for the cure and treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in the past year, while exceeding its defaulter rate benchmark.
Despite setting a target of 77 percent for its cure rate, the province only achieved 72.6 percent, which is also lower than the national target of 80 percent. The target for treatment successes was 80 percent, but 77.9 was achieved, which, again, is lower than the national target of 85 percent. Conversely, its defaulter rate was 4.7 percent, which exceeded the 4.3 percent target.
Tuberculosis is an age-old disease which is infectious but curable, yet people continue to die from it.
In the Free State, 20 838 TB patients are registered in the health system. The death rate is 9.8 percent; while the national rate is 6.3 percent.
The department has conducted a sample study that concentrated on children aged under five to establish the health status of children from sufferers’ households. The research saw 782 households being visited, in addition to one prison, 67 crèches and three farms.
During this exercise, children tested and found with TB symptoms and other diseases were referred for assessment to health facilities.
Although focus was on children, rural areas and prisons were also visited for the screening of TB and HIV/AIDS.
The MEC for health, Dr.Benny Malakoane, is not impressed with the statistics revealed by the research, and believes the province can do better.
“We need to intensify our programmes, especially in regard of how we engage the communities. We need to move to a promotional and preventative way of doing things. We are serious about halting this disease and we need to be aggressive in our approach,” said Malakoane.
He said the department should have achieved the target. “We set ourselves a low target but we still did not achieve it. Now we need to go back and review what we did, how we did it and how we can improve on that. We also need to set a target that we know we can achieve, not a target you think you can achieve and in the course of events it becomes difficult for you to achieve it,” cautioned Malakoane.
Malakoane encouraged health practitioners and other stakeholders to do their best in “halting this bacterium dead in its tracks”. He added that the department relies “on the masses to subdue the enemy”. He gave assurance that there is money to deal with the TB challenge in the province.
The screening of children for TB was conducted in three municipalities and one town. Most cases of TB in children were from the Tswelopele Local Municipality where 192 children were screened and 24 of the 38 children who had symptoms tested positive for the disease.
In Thaba Nchu, 12 crèches were visited, 831 children were screened and 14 tested positive with TB. The municipality that had the lowest number of people with TB is Nketoane. Only two children were found with TB out of 1 138 children screened. The study was done in 16 crèches in this municipality.
According to the department’s senior manager –TB Management, Matseliso Morigihlane, patients come for treatment when the disease is already at an advanced stage and actually die within the two months of initiation of the treatment.