Bukidnon to combat low TB detection with multi-sector alliance, info drive

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — The Bukidnon Provincial Health Office is spearheading the formation of a Bukidnon multi-sectoral alliance for the control of tuberculosis in the province.

Dr. Teresita G. Damasco, provincial health officer, said they are holding consultations in line with the move to create the alliance, a measure prescribed by the Department of Health to control TB.

“The alarming condition of TB cases in Bukidnon needs special attention from officials in every municipality or city,” she said.

In 2010, Bukidnon reported 131 deaths attributed to TB. But only 43, or 33 percent of the cases, were reported from the Rural Health Units (RHUs), Barrera said.

She said 88 of the patients, or 67 percent, died without getting treatment. This, despite the fact that TB drugs are free in RHUs in the province’s 24 TB treatment facilities.

TB is the eighth biggest cause of deaths in Bukidnon in 2010. Nationwide, TB is the sixth leading cause of deaths and illnesses and accounts for 7 percent of the total deaths. About 75 Filipinos die of TB everyday.

Emmanuelita R. Barrera, Bukidnon’s nurse TB coordinator, said the problem in TB detection and cure is not drugs and facilities. “One major concern we are addressing is the information and education drive,” she said.

The commitment of LGUs and all stakeholders are needed to strengthen implementation of measures to improve TB detection rate in the province, said Damasco.

June 14 consultation

Damasco scheduled a consultation meeting on June 14, a date set after Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. flared up upon hearing Bukidnon has the lowest detection rate for tuberculosis in Region 10.

MindaNews reported earlier that the Province of Bukidnon has a lackluster record in detecting TB cases. It is, in fact, at the bottom in Northern Mindanao with only a 55-percent case detection rate (CDR) compared to the national cut-off of 70 percent.

The poor CDR is an alarming situation that deserves “full attention” considering that the province has been at the bottom at least since 2004, said Marilou Gecosala, Northern Mindanao regional nurse TB coordinator.

Gecosala told MindaNews at the end of a forum on Program Implementation Review On Tuberculosis Control and other concerns at the Folk Arts Theater last month that the low performance could be attributed to the province’s geography and also the commitment of health workers and the patients’ “health-seeking” behavior.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs with condition known as pulmonary tuberculosis; it also has effect on other portions of the body, like the bones joints, intestines, liver, kidneys, and the heart, according to the Health Promotion Handbook distributed during the event.

Bukidnon’s cure rate, or the number of patients cured among those detected with TB, is 82 percent. Still it falls short of the national cut-off of 85 percent, said Barrera.

Where did they go?

Misamis Occidental, the best in the region for both detection and cure rates, has 104 percent and 94 percent, respectively. The detection and cure rates are based on performances of the province’s 24 TB directly observed treatment (DOT) facilities.

Only four of Bukidnon’s 20 towns and two cities have passed the national standards in cure rates: Maramag (104 percent), Don Carlos (100 percent), Malitbog (79.17 percent), and Damulog (70.86 percent). The municipality of Don Carlos was listed in the areas with TB DOTS that has “high cure rates.”

Barrera said the 2010 figures at least show an improvement compared to the 2007 figures. Four years ago, Bukidnon’s detection rate was only 43 percent while its cure rate was at 60 percent.

Based on estimates from a detection formula, if Bukidnon has 1.06 million population, it must have at least 1,006 cases in 2010. But only 975 cases were reported in the province, Barrera said.

“Where did they go? Most of these people are ashamed of their conditions, are self medicating or have poor health-seeking behavior,” she added.

Barrera warned that each patient has the possibility of infecting 10 to 15 other people so they must not self medicate.

She said those who take medicines without going through the protocol in recognized treatment centers stand the risk of acquiring multiple-drug resistant TB cases.

She added that many TB patients are ashamed and afraid to come out when there is nothing to be ashamed or be afraid of and drugs to treat TB are available for free in the province’s 24 TB DOT facilities. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)