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Doctor goes extra step to tackle TB

Update: March, 27/2014 - 09:09
After three weeks of treatment for his TB, Nguyen Huu An recovered, but he is still checked up on by Dr Nguyen Van Thom of District 8's TB clinic.—VNS Photo Gia Loc

by Gia Loc

HCM CITY (VNS) — Nguyen Thi Huyen Tran was worried about the tuberculosis treatment for her 88-year-old father because he was too weak to go the local TB treatment centre every day.

Nguyen Huu An, of Ward 4 in District 8, was diagnosed with pulmonary TB by doctors at Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital in District 5 and sent to the local clinic for treatment. But the free clinic does not admit patients, who have to go there every morning for examination and to take drugs under the supervision of doctors.

Tran expressed her concern to Dr Nguyen Van Thom at the clinic, who offered to visit their house instead for treatment.

"Thanks to Thom's conscientiousness, my father's health improved after three weeks of treatment," Tran said, adding that the visits were also free.

Thom visits the houses of other patients too.

"This is one way to attract patients with TB to the clinic for treatment," Thom said.

In the densely populated district, TB could spread easily, he said, adding that the clinic's doctors adopted many ways to attract patients with TB to reduce the transmission, especially of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB.

If patients with TB stop treatment midway, they are likely to develop MDR TB, which is resistant to the two most powerful TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.

Last year Thom's clinics treated 980 patients with TB and cured 85 per cent of them, including 63 of 79 with MDR TB.

Tran Ngoc Buu, head of the National Tuberculosis Control Division's southern region, said doctors, especially Thom, had worked with dedication to combat TB, and this had contributed to the effectiveness of the city's TB prevention programme.

Other districts had been encouraged to adopt the district's model of TB care at home, he said.

TB prevention

The effectiveness of the city's programme is apparent from the large number of TB patients who are diagnosed and treated at specialised clinics and hospitals, according to Buu.

Of every seven people treated for TB in the entire country, the city accounts for one. As for MDR TB, the number rises to 70 per cent.

People with TB should not be worried because the rate of cure is 90 per cent if they are treated in time and follow the treatment regimen.

"Do not halt the antibiotics for any reason," he warned, referring to the threat of developing MDR-TB.

With drugs for MDR TB available, the recovery rate is 70 per cent, but patients have to complete the full course of treatment of 19-24 months, according to Buu.

But it was not an easy task, he admitted, adding that 5 per cent of patients with MDR-TB avoided treatment because they were too busy earning a living or did not have anyone to take care of them during hospitalisation.

Dr Nguyen Huy Dung, head of the city's Committee for TB Prevention Programme, said this was one of the hurdles to increasing the rate of treatment for patients with MDR-TB.

Financial assistance from local authorities and donors for patients with MDR-TB would encourage them to continue treatment, he said.

Buu admitted that relatives were very important to encourage people to get treatment.

Buu said the city last year began a pilot treatment regimen for MDR-TB patients that shortened the treatment regimen from 19-24 months to nine months.

"The regimen is likely to be better tolerated by patients."

He cited the case of Bangladesh which had achieved success with the nine-month MDR-TB treatment regimen. — VNS

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