/ 13 February 2008

TB patients in isolation order dagga by phone

The management of Port Elizabeth’s Jose Pearson Tuberculosis (TB) Hospital has taken steps to crack down on dagga smoking by patients with drug-resistant strains of TB.

Provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said on Wednesday that some patients with extensively or multidrug-resistant TB being held in isolation have been using their cellphones to order the drug. Suppliers would then toss packets to them over the hospital fence.

The hospital management has already met police on the issue, and a meeting with patients will follow.

”We will be telling the patients that if they continue taking the substance, it will be extremely dangerous for their health,” Kupelo said.

He said smoking is a cause of TB, and the department discourages the habit.

”We also want to appeal to those who supply them with this kind of thing [dagga] to stop it,” he said.

Patients have also been obtaining liquor and dangerous weapons the same way. ”They don’t want to stay at the hospital. I think this is an attempt to assist them to find their way out,” he said.

He said security at Jose Pearson has been stepped up following the escape of a number of patients last year. One patient absconded last week, using a knife to threaten security staff, but was brought back after the department obtained a court order. — Sapa