The availability of GeneXpert machines, which speed up the diagnosis of TB and Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB, has resulted in quicker detection of MDR TB, says Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo.
Since 2009, the province has made progress in improving the TB cure rate from 78% to 83% by the end of the third quarter of 2013/14. The percentage of TB patients who do not complete their treatment improved from 5.9% in 2009 to 4.9% in 2013. "We have been able to save the lives of people whose conditions would have worsened, and at worst infected others while awaiting diagnosis," MEC Papo said.
He said that he had given instructions to CEOs and clinical managers to formally inform the relevant districts whenever a case of MDR TB is diagnosed at hospitals, which have GeneXpert machines.
"If these patients are not followed up by districts, having these GeneXpert machines serves no useful purpose."
Fifteen GeneXpert machines have been purchased and installed at Steve Biko, Dr George Mukhari, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph, Tambo Memorial, Kopanong, Tembisa, Natalspruit, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Pholosong, Bertha Gxowa, Sebokeng, Carletonvile, Edenvale and Jubilee Hospitals.
MEC Papo said regardless of the challenge faced by the province due to migration, the department has a responsibility to ensure that patients, who migrated from neighbouring countries while on TB treatment, are followed up on so that they don't default.
The MEC, who visited Saulsville on Wednesday to commemorate World Stop TB Day, made a commitment for the department to work hard to reduce the burden of TB. He said in order to break the back of TB, heightened public awareness on the dangers of TB and its infectiousness was needed.
He also urged the families of patients, who are on TB treatment, to provide support and encourage them to adhere to treatment.
"We must continue to educate our people on the signs and symptoms of TB and we must emphasize the importance of completing TB treatment and make patients aware of the consequences of failure to do so. Drugs alone will not win the war we are faced with. We have to reconsider the tactics that we have employed in the past in the fight against TB.
"We need to strengthen community awareness because there is evidence that our people are not presenting themselves to be tested for TB earlier when they begin to show symptoms. Identification of areas where there are high rates of infection in any sub-district should raise alarm bells to district clinical specialist teams," he said.
Since 1994, government has prioritised reducing the burden of TB by also addressing other social determinants which contribute to its burden.