Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp in the North West has closed its Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB) unit because patients have fully recovered and no new cases have been recorded.
The medical officer who works in the unit and has extensive training in drug resistant TB, Dr Hannetjie Ferreira, says this is good news for residents as the patients who struggled with the disease for many years have been completely cured and there are no new cases. The chances of anyone in Klerksdorp getting infected are greatly reduced.
Dr Ferreira says the ability to successfully treat TB and XDR TB was made possible the introduction of new TB treatment which was in line with the National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP).
According to Dr Ferreira, the 22-bed unit was built 10 years ago by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It was dedicated to patients who struggled to take care of themselves at their own homes, including those who were defaulting on their medication.
The unit was the first in South Africa to initiate a patient on the new medicine regimen under the Bedaquiline Clinical Access Research Programme in March 2013. This led to a cure rate of 81 percent for XDR TB within the first two years and a decline in community transmission.
At its busiest, the unit had six doctors but in recent years, the number was reduced to three because of the decreasing patient numbers. The unit used to diagnose about 10 new cases of XDR TB per year and between 30 and 40 pre-XDR cases annually in the province. With the success of the new treatment, this figure started dropping and only two patients with XDR TB were diagnosed in 2019. So far this year, no case has been reported.
“Because there are no patients in the unit, we were able to redirect resources to other healthcare needs of the hospital and the province, such as catering for patients who have tested positive for the Coronavirus and are in need of hospital facilities,” she adds.