A new drive to raise public awareness about chronic diseases such as TB, high blood pressure, sugar diabetes and Aids will see scores of health workers go out, from door to door, across the Free State urging patients to take their medication as prescribed.
Launching the campaign in Maluti a Phofung Local Municipality last week, provincial health MEC Benny Malakoane said the campaign would also encourage people who are not on treatment but showing signs of infection with any of the diseases to visit doctors for examination.
While TB is easily treatable and medical advances over the years have rendered high blood pressure, diabetes as well as Aids easily manageable and not as life-threatening as before, many people continue to die of the diseases because they never get tested and get treated.
Or when they do get tested and are put on medication, they never stick to the dosage.
The failure to stick to prescribed dosage has seen an increase in cases of the more dangerous multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) which is more difficult and expensive to treat than the normal strain of the respiratory disease.
Experts also fear that improper use of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and failure to ensure patients complete the whole course of treatment could see an increase in viral drug-resistant HIV that could reverse the immense progress made in combating the virus.
Announcing the new campaign at Maluti a Phofung’s Letsha le Maduke village, Malakoane said: “We have decided to start the door-to-door health campaign so that we profile the health history of each family and assist those who are on chronic disease treatment to adhere to their (prescribed dosage) and avoid defaulting.”
“We will use our community health workers to intensify our campaign and ensure that every family is captured,” he added.
The MEC called on non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to step up to the plate to help the campaign to make the public more aware of the need to be on the lookout for the major diseases and when on medication to stick to prescription.
To launch the health awareness campaign Malakoane, a medical doctor himself, led a team of doctors and nurses on visits to several households at Letsha le Maduke, checking on the health of people there and advising those on medication to stick to prescription and those showing signs of illness to visit the hospital or their doctor for a proper medical check.
Outlining how the campaign will be rolled out, the MEC said the department would identify a town in every local municipality from which to launch the exercise before expanding it to cover the whole municipality and eventually the whole district.
The objective is to ensure the awareness campaign is extended to all the Free State’s five districts and that everyone in the province requiring treatment for any of the major diseases gets it, he said.
Malakoane did not say how much his department was spending on the awareness campaign but said there were enough resources and manpower to see the exercise through.
Meanwhile Malakoane said plans to upgrade TB handling facilities at Ladybrand Provincial Hospital in Mantsopa Local Municipality to make sure it is able to handle MDR-TB were at an advanced stage.
There is no public health facility that can handle MDR-TB cases in the entire Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality under which both the Mantsopa and Maluti a Phofung local municipalities fall.
MDR-TB patients from Thabo Mofutsanyana – which includes the local municipalities of Dihlabeng, Nketoana, Phumelela and Setsoto and is home to more than 725 000 people – are presently referred to Kopano Clinic in Welkom or the Dr JS Moroka Hospital in Thabo Nchu, both not less than 200 km away.