Ghana could lose fight against TB – Dr Bonsu

Accra- The Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Thursday warned that the country could lose the battle against Tuberculosis (TB) control, if the right leadership and commitment are not mobilised towards the eradication of the disease.

Dr Frank Bonsu, the Programme Manager of the National TB Control Programme (NTCP), who sounded the note of caution, at a durbar to commemorate the 2018 World TB Day in Accra, said the gains achieved so far could be eroded.

The current fear, he said arises from the fact that TB case notification have been declining in the last four years, saying in 2017 the country recorded 14,550 new cases, which was down from the 2013 new notified cases from 15,606.

There was also a decline in TB reported cases in all regions with the exception of Western, Upper East and Brong Ahafo regions, however, Greater Accra, Ashanti, Eastern and Western, continued to record exceptionally high number of cases.

According to him, the expected annual number of reported TB cases countrywide was 44,000 on the average, but the national treatment success average was 85.2 per cent, which felled short of the GHS’s ambitious set target of 90 per cent.

The annual event, which falls on March 24, on the global theme Wanted: Leaders for TB-Free Ghana. End TB, is being marked in Ghana under the local theme: Wanted: Leaders for TB-Free Ghana, to encourage voluntary leadership and multi-stakeholder support to eradicate the disease by 2030.

The year-long event is being orgainsed in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association.

Dr Bonsu said financing mechanisms to support treatment adherence by patients were no longer available, leading to poor treatment supervision and ultimately increases in drug resistant TB, saying the number of reported drug resistant cases had gone up such that in 2017, 198 cases were reported compared to 30 in 2013.

The consequence, he said was that Ghana has recorded its first case of Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR TB), which was a rare type of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs.

This he said was largely due to inadequate support and care to the patient, and called for immediate action to prevent further spread of this type of the disease.

According to him the amazing and remarkable, enthusiasm, passion and drive by health care providers working in TB control, was however not palpable any more, and coincidentally, the energy of optimism in his addresses during World TB Days in the last four years had been low as a result.

Dr Anthony Nsiah Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, said there was no doubt that GHS had made tremendous progress and significant gains and that over the last decade huge investment in human, material and equipment, as well as capacity has been developed to reduce the spread of the disease.

He said the GHS had also been applauded for its capacity to adopt and deploy countrywide, new technologies and tools, citing that in 2018, the Service would be rolling its first ever child friendly TB new paediatric formulation for treating TB in children, and newer shorter treatment regimen for Multi drug resistant TB under the NTCP.

He said in line with GHS’s new Vision to use lCT, the TB Control Programme has initiated and deployed CAD4 software packages, and had also acquired two mobile X-ray screening Vans, dubbed the lungs to support control activities.

This, he said has brought some relief to TB mobile screening teams, as the software serves to meet their basic needs in the absence of trained radiologist.

Dr Nsiah Asare said the Service was also working closely with all stakeholders and partners to address the shortfall in radiographers in the system whose support services were needed to enable the country attain its case detection target, which was currently low.

The GHS has further requested that access to X-ray screening services be made available for screening all first year Senior High School students, and invited all those with persistent cough to come forward and be tested, giving the assurance that TB treatment would continue to be free in all government facilities.

He acknowledged the leadership role of Nana Ahunabobirim Prah Agyensaim Vl, the National TB Ambassador, the Ghana Journalists Association and other partners, and called on all traditional and community leaders, as well as Civil Society Organisations and all Ghanaians to play supporting roles in eradicating TB by 2030.

Source: Ghana News Agency