The fight against tuberculosis in the province has received a boost following the launch of the Scooter Project, enabling health workers to visit people in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality at their homes.
The project launch took place at the annual District Health Summit held in Port Elizabeth last week. The Eastern Cape and specifically Nelson Mandela Bay, has a TB incidence rate 24% higher than the national average.
Worldwide, South Africa is ranked the third highest in terms of TB with about 25000 people dying from TB annually.
Organisers of the event said one of the major challenges in the fight against TB was to increase the number of newly diagnosed patients in order to initiate treatment early and ensuring those patients continue taking the medication and complete their treatment cycle.
To address these challenges, Sandoz is working in partnership with the department of health by sponsoring the scooters. Vivian Frittelli, head of strategic projects at Sandoz said: “The purpose of the project is to increase the detection of new TB cases and to encourage patients to complete the six-month course. Many patients stop treatment after a couple of weeks because they feel better.”
MEC for health Sicelo Gqobana said any solution to health problems should have a strong primary healthcare focus. “To achieve this we have to get the communities involved. We therefore welcome this initiative of Sandoz and look forward to a constructive partnership,” Gqobana said.
Gqobana said a district health system based on primary health care forms an integral part of the national health system. “The importance of the participation of individuals and communities cannot be overemphasised.
“The scooter initiative not only provides a workable solution to the problem but is also a very visible demonstration of community involvement and the establishment of a partnership between the private and public sectors,” Gqobana said.
A research study conducted in the Eastern Cape found that many people avoid or delay going to a clinic because they believe that all TB patients may also be found to be HIV positive. “However, with appropriate early treatment, TB can be cured,” Frittelli said.