New plan to tackle TB spread in the Western Cape
Cape Town - The Western Cape government health department launched it’s multi-sectoral emergency response plan to reduce the spread of Tuberculosis (TB) in the province.
Premier Alan Winde, Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo with Health Department Head Dr Keith Cloete, and civil society partners, held the briefing at the Karl Bremer Hospital.
The plan comes after Winde challenged his AIDS and TB Council to produce an accelerated response to TB within a month, starting from World TB Day on March 24.
Presenting the plan, Dr Cloete said it would primarily focus on four main areas: communication (public dashboard and social mobilization); preventing new infections (TB screening App and reaching vulnerable populations); early detection and adherence support (innovations, SMS expert results and digital chest X-ray); and the whole of society approach (intergovernmental task team and civil society partnerships).
Cloete emphasised the importance of strengthening communication around TB, as forthright as that of Covid-19.
“We will make public communications, one of telling the stories of people that have been cured of TB, tell the stories that TB is imminently curable to lift the stigma, to come forward and tell the story that we can have a productive life.”
A public dashboard, similar to the Covid-19 dashboard, will track TB, and is expected to launch at the end of June.
“We have learnt to build hospitals in six weeks, deliver medicine to our citizens who are most at risk and who are at their home. I see it even in this plan if you look at the medicines component of dealing with this plan and how our citizens are going to get that quicker and more efficiently because of the lessons of Covid-19.
The province saw a 53% decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019 in the number of people diagnosed with TB.
“We’ve agreed that there’ll be a multi-party TB caucus in the provincial parliament who will play an oversight role,” said Winde.
Previously as a decades long TB nurse, Mbombo said she has never seen such a comprehensive plan put together in such a short space of time, and said she endorsed the plan. Mbombo stressed the importance of the whole-of-society approach.
“TB is a socio-economic disease, it targets more those who are high risk, those who are poor, those who are in the low-socio-economic status, those who are vulnerable in regards to whether they’ve got Aids (or) cancer, those who are either extreme in their ages… so its beyond the health system.”
The Health Department has secured a R80 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to drive it’s TB response over the next three years.