Around 1980 going back, TB treatment was national with patients in need of hospitalisation admitted at specific centres.
Makumbi Mission Hospital in Mashonaland East province, Muvonde Mission Hospital in Masvingo popularity known as Driefointein, Howard Mission Hospital in Mashonaland Central, Bonda Mission Hospital in Manicaland and a few other centres of excellence not mentioned had TB units which saw patients admitted before finishing their treatment and discharged to go home. However, with the population growth this is no longer possible.
Today TB treatment has been decentralised and all hospitals and most clinics are now dispensing TB treatment.
The hiccup is that not all centres can reach TB treatment excellence. For multiple drug resistance TB, (MDRTB) I feel hospitalisation is still necessary.
A patient with MDRTB has injections given for a minimum of three months with tablets still part of the treatment, depending with treatment success, the course can run up to two years. Distance travelled from home to the hospital becomes a barrier to completing treatment. Cost too becomes a hindrance, not to talk of lack of food and fatigue. Although some centres supplement diets for TB patients, it’s not national coverage hence hunger gnaws the unfortunate patients not on supplementary diets.
The USAID programme, PLAN and several donors have offered relief services for supplemental diet needs.
“I’m alive because of support from my family and the village health worker who supported me through home visits and at times brought me dried beans.
“There were times I failed to walk and there was no one at home, the village health worker accompanied me to the hospital and gave me hope. Without care and human support, there’s no way I could be here today,” said Michael Pondo from Chiweshe.
From his harrowing experience with TB, Pondo is now assisting the village health worker in the community rounds raising awareness and identifying suspected TB cases.
Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial infection that is preventable and curable, with the right treatment and adherence.
In addition to appropriate medication, it is human support like what Pondo received that makes the difference between life and death.
Community health workers are essential in providing moral support, adherence, hope and demystify stigma as they embrace and show love to patients. Stigma becomes a social distance hampering treatment.
Community health workers are an eye in the missed cases who never report to hospitals.
Survivors of TB willing to help like Pondo are effective tools in stopping TB. Pondo is offering his services out of love and concern to save lives, however, community health workers need training, supervision and remuneration to keep serving them serving. Care-givers also need care themselves. Pondo needs support in his community work.