South Africa: New technology to diagnose TB in north west hospitals

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Hospitals in the  South Africa North West province have been fitted with Gene Xpert for quick diagnose of Tuberculosis (TB). The Gene Xpert is a new test for tuberculosis. It can find out if a person is infected with TB within two hours and also if the TB bacterium of the person has resistance to one of the common TB drugs. The Gene Xpert has been tested in facilities in the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and the Gauteng in 2010. Today Mafikeng, Ganyesa, Tshepong, Job Shimankane Tabane, Nic Bodenstein, Taung, Joe Morolong in Vryburg, and Potchefstroom hospitals have Gene Xpert.  It is a great development in the fight against TB  in South Africa as the technological development now makes it possible for quick results turnaround, meaning patients who come out positive can be immediately put on treatment.
With the use of new technology more people are now being diagnosed with TB. The province has recorded 300 to 380 cases of Extreme Drug Resistance TB from 2009 to 2011. The new cases far exceed bed capacity of 76 beds at Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital Complex’s MDR TB Unit.
The scenario is likely to aggravate as the province ready itself to rollout the implementation of the new diagnostic test, Gene Xpert in all hospitals. This has obligated the management of the Department of Health to seek alternative solution. As a result, the decentralization of the MDR TB treatment was instituted. Taung hospital together with Gelukspan and Koster hospitals were identified to offer MDR TB services.
While Koster and Gelukspan hospitals MDR TB units are still undergoing some refurbishments to meet decentralisation requirements, the MDR TB unit in Taung was ready for decentralization. A noteworthy achievement has been registered already with two patients being completely cured from MDR TB.
The province has about 96 MDR in-patients including 20 that is currently being managed in Taung and 419 out patients. The MDR cure rate in the province currently stands at 55%.
Three primary healthcare facilities in South Africa  have been identified in Moretele, Madibeng and Maquassi Hills Sub Districts in Bojanala and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Districts respectively for community MDR decentralisation.
The province has already commenced with training of healthcare workers and risk assessment of infection control in preparation for community decentralisation rollout. In not so distant future all health facilities will be prepared to roll out Community MDR decentralisation model.
The North West province will commemorate World TB Day on 15 March in Taung with official opening of Taung Hospital’s MDR TB Decentralisation Unit. The official opening will be followed by a TB Indaba to be attended by TB specialist and TB Nurses.

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