TB patients poorer than entire Ghanaian population-DrBonsu

Accra- Dr Frank Bonsu, the Programmes Manager, National TB Programme, on Tuesday, said the proportion of TB patients living in poverty has been found to be greater than the percentage of poor people in the entire population.

Currently two-thirds of TB patients lived below the poverty line, and while the general population recorded a poverty level of 24 per cent, the percentage among patients stood at 46 per cent, indicating widespread poverty among these group.

DrBonsu who was presenting findings from Ghana’s first national TB Patient Cost Survey in Accra, said it was for the reason that the national survey to measure the level of catastrophic costs due to TB, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations was key.

He said the study conducted by the National TB Programme (NTP) of the Ministry of Health (MOH), supported by the USAID, and in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Dodowa Health Research Centre, revealed that patients suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) incurred a median cost of 455 dollars per an episode.

This, he explained, included direct medical and direct non-medical costs such as consultation fees and diagnostic test; and travels, accommodation while seeking care, food and income loss respectively.

Nonetheless, patients with Multiple-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB), incurred a significantly higher total cost of 659 dollars compared to those with Drug-Susceptible TB (DS-TB), because their costs after diagnosis was three times greater than that of their counterparts, which was largely attributable to food and nutritional supplement needs outside their normal diet.

DrBonsu said due to the high cost and economic hardship experienced by TB patients, most of them failed to go for treatment, while others developed resistance to their drugs, leading to further complications and social danger of spreading the disease.

The study, he said, would therefore inform policy decisions, and spur on efforts towards the elimination of catastrophic costs for sufferers, as well as monitor progress towards the high-level End TB Strategy target by 2020, he said.

He called on the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and other stakeholder institutions collaborate with the MOH in finding a sustainable solution to the problem.

He said it was envisioned that by 2020 all TB affected households would not spend more than GH20.00 out of G00.00 on treatment for the disease.

Dr Gloria QuansahAsare, the Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) who launched the Report on the Study findings, gave some highlights which showed that the catastrophic costs for TB patients could be addressed by improving service delivery and financing, and through enhancing social protection for TB patients.

She said the study also recommended key interventions such as streamlining TB patient pathways by decentralising service, improving access to diagnosis, sputum transportation, engaging all providers, and innovative technologies for early detection and diagnosis.

It also called for enhancing community-based services by linking with existing Health Workers Programme; enhancing TB care financing within the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) policies including the free TB Care policy, systematic nutritional assessment and counselling for patients; providing free and fast track enrolment in the NHIS; expanding existing social protection schemes such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), and providing nutritional support to them according to their needs.

She indicated that by protecting TB patients with a multi-sectoral response, it would contribute directly to the broader agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, the WHO Country Representative, commended Ghana for being the first country in Africa to conduct a national survey to measure the level of catastrophic costs due to TB, saying the timing for the dissemination was also right as it served as a critical stepping stone towards strengthening Ghana’s national response.

He said the results that was being disseminated, would be extremely valuable not only for monitoring progress towards the zero catastrophic costs target, but also for their numerous policy implications.

They are important to improve health systems capacity to deliver people-centred, quality TB services, as well as accelerate Ghana’s progress towards UHC, adding that no one should get sick and die from TB simply because they cannot access care, he said.

DrKaluwa also advised that by using the survey findings, Ghana must transform its response to end TB with support from the other sectors and partners, and build a stronger TB care response to contribute to the goals of various social sectors.

He however indicated that Ghana’s findings could be shared at the up-coming United National General Assembly high-level meeting on TB to be held in New York on September 20, 2018, in which the Heads of States would affirm their commitment to end TB, to serve as an inspiration to other countries.

Source: Ghana News Agency