Doctor: TB a disaster

Main Stories, National

The National, Tuesday 4th September, 2012

PAPUA New Guinea is headed for disaster with its unpredictable trend and spread of tuberculosis, a doctor says.
Former Tari Hospital chief executive officer Dr Bravy Koensong said yesterday the Health Department had failed to assess the dangers of TB in the country, making it now a killer disease.
Koensong said TB had been mismanaged and underestimated for more than 25 years in the country, resulting in its spread and the evolution of the multi-drug resistant strain.
“Although TB is preventable and has treatment protocols readily available, it has become a killer,” he said.
“There is no one to blame but the health sector and stakeholders who must cop the blame for increased morbidity and mortality because of their ignorance.
“The TB bacilli has undergone a genetic mutation and an evolution has taken place where it is now treatment resistant.”
He said with the treatment resistance TB, the bacilli had evolved to change its genetic makeup and treatment was now not working.
“TB is spreading very fast and this is a disaster on our hands.”
Koensong said the government would now have to spend more money to buy powerful drugs because its ignorance.
He said the dilemma now was that the future of the disaster was not determined and “no one knows how to properly monitor and keep surveillance on the multi-drug resistant TB”.
The government has a policy where all children are immunised with the Bacillus Caleum Guirium (BCG) vaccine to protect against ordinary TB.
While a medical symposium is under way in Port Moresby, Koensong suggested that for the next five to 10 years, a mass immunisation with BCG be carried out although the BCG coverage was above average.
He said the health sector should not turn a blind eye on the issue because TB was occurring, with all hospitals in the country having one or two wards full of TB patients.
He said the health sector should question if the BCG was working and if BCG was properly handled on the call chain system.
“We need to give BCG to all population to give some sort of immunity against the multi-drug resistant TB and that will reduce costs for government.
“We must push for the vaccine in the South-West Pacific because the new challenge is whether BCG can protect against multi-drug resistant TB, and whether it can provide lasting immunity as there is no scientific research.”
Koensong called on all stakeholders, especially the health department and World Health Organisation, to immediately call for a mass immunisation BCG on World TB Day.
He commended the Australian government and Global Fund for helping with TB programmes in the country.
“Stakeholders are working towards curing and preventing TB but the best option is mass immunisation,” he said.