Free State Health Crisis: Failure by government contributes to TB epidemic

Mariette Pittaway MPL

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature

Comments made by Health MEC, Dr Benny Malakoane, that tuberculosis has become an epidemic in the Free State are very concerning.

What is more concerning is that MEC Malakoane only suspects that more than 19 000 people are suffering from tuberculosis. He doesn’t know the full extent of infection in the Free State, and to be quite frank, he has no excuse not to know.

The Provincial Department of Health is expected to constantly inform and educate the public about the importance of early detection and treatment of tuberculosis. The department also has a responsibility to encourage testing and to report cases of tuberculosis infection on a register so as to actively monitor the treatment of tuberculosis patients.

Many tuberculosis sufferers fail to complete their treatment regimens which result in reinfection and contributes to the mutation of the bacterium into drug resistant strains. This contributes to the spread of infection and makes treatment more difficult and more expensive.

The DA has for almost two years highlighted concerns over the failure by the department to monitor cases and the treatment of Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR) and the extremely virulent and highly infectious Extensive Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR).

Ultimately, the failure by the department to monitor tuberculosis and its treatment contributes to the spread of the disease to suspected epidemic proportions. People’s lives are being put at risk due to the negligence of a struggling health department.

I will submit written questions in the legislature to MEC Malakoane asking him whether the department has addressed its failure to report and monitor cases of tuberculosis and what additional measures has been undertaken to prevent the spread of the disease across the province.