Southern African countries intend to harmonise tuberculosis (TB) treatment and create cross-border patient databases and referral systems to deal with the TB raging in the region’s mines.
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi made the announcement at a regional summit yesterday.
Motsoaledi also announced that South Africa will test 500 000 miners for TB using part of the more than R3 billion recently awarded to it by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
SADC countries will also adopt regional patient tracking and referral systems to make ensure patients can get care no matter where they are.
“We need to know who is it that has TB within SADC and where are their families,” said Motsoaledi. “We also need to know who refers to who and who takes responsibility for the patient.”
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the meeting was an opportunity to put “meat on the bones” of the August 2012 Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC) Declaration on TB in the Mines.
The declaration is a response to rates of TB on South Africa’s mines that are 10 times’ worse than the World Health Organisation emergency levels, according to Patrick Osewe, the World Bank’s sector leader on human development.
Proactively testing and treating TB in miners could cut TB rate in the sector by 60 percent in 15 years, according to Osewe
As part of the declaration, SADC countries have pledged to establish independent mining ombudsmen to handle health complaints and to classify TB and silicosis among miners as occupational diseases.
“Proactively testing and treating TB in miners could cut TB rate in the sector by 60 percent in 15 years”
Traditionally, miners have faced treatment interruptions when moving between the mines and home – and this is also true for the 60 percent of miners who are native South Africans, cautioned Motsoaledi.
The creation of regional databases and tracking systems are ambitious goals.
Currently, the Ministry of Mineral Resources is still attempting to trace some former mine workers using records kept by the TEBA – the country’s historic recruitment agency for the mine.