"Despite efforts by OSF and partners to help cure TB patients and stop the spreading, patients are still faced with the challenge of completing the treatment on time."

Organizations such as Oil Search Foundation (OSF) have done so much to tackle one of PNG’s deadliest diseases Tuberculosis (TB) in the Hela and Gulf provinces since 2016 when the disease was at its peak in the country.

Despite the investment made by OSF and other partners to help cure TB patients and stop the spreading, patients are still faced with the challenge of completing the treatment on time.

Doctor in charge of TB for OSF, Dr Vincent Pyakalyia said completing treatment within the given time frame and being able to take those medications on the specific time and date has always been a challenge to most patients, which then leads to Multi Drug Resistant TB.

Dr. Pyakalyia with a TB patient at Hela provincial hospital

“ Multi Drug Resistant TB comes about when there’s poor execution of TB treatment protocols, poor use of drugs and when a patient is unable to complete his/her treatment”

The Multi Drug Resistant TB can take up to 22 months for a patient to complete the treatment while the Drug Sensitive TB takes up to 9 months to complete the treatment.

“The drugs are all different, we don’t usually give the same drugs  and on top that, the treatment are longer and it becomes uncomfortable for patients”  said Dr Pyakalyia.

Drug sensitive TB patients take up to 4 tablets in a day and the Multi Drug Resistant patients usually take more than 10 tablets in a day.

Dr Pyakalyia said the problem of getting the patients to complete their medication is a worldwide issue and more work is needed in this area to assist patients and make them understand why it is important to complete the treatment.

“Keeping people on treatment and assisting them to finish the treatment are very big challenges but it also goes back to the TB clinics to really explain to patients why it is important to complete the treatment”

He said it important that Health officers need to explain to the patients that this disease will not only affect the patient but it will have a greater impact on the families and even the community they live in.

“Counselling is a very important part in managing TB, however some Health workers don’t have the understanding or patience to deal with patients and it is sad but we still have to do our job”

He stressed on the importance of moral support for patients and that included talking to the family members of the patients to support them in completing their treatment.    

Meanwhile, as the World marks World TB Day today, Dr Pyakalyia raised some important points on what PNG can do to at least bring the TB numbers down.

He said awareness is important and in some areas of the country, government support is really needed to fight this disease.

Dr Pyakalyia suggested that all TB clinics should have the Genexpert Test for TB diagnosis which is able to diagnosis TB within an hour and that could help in getting more patients on treatment.

The Genexpert Machine

Timely access to treatment  and following up on patients at their homes and making sure they complete their treatment are some issues that Dr. Pyakalyia hopes they can make improvements on.  

By Christine Kildi
March 25, 2019