/ 25 March 2008

Eastern Cape TB patients return to hospital

At least 21 drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) patients — who ran away from a Port Elizabeth hospital last week — returned on the weekend, Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said on Monday.

On Thursday, 33 drug-resistant TB patients forced their way out of the Jose Pearson Hospital.

Health officials said a group of about 60 patients being held in isolation intimidated gate guards at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

By Thursday, 25 patients with multidrug-resistant TB, and eight with extreme drug-resistant TB, managed to push past the guards and run away.

Kupelo said 21 patients had returned over the Easter weekend.

The department believed they were visiting families in the area.

The patients are kept in isolation to prevent the spread of the disease and to ensure that they comply with their medication instructions.

The people they visited would be contacted and interviewed and would have to be screened for the disease, Kupelo said.

Meanwhile, the patients who ran away will be educated about the dangers of running away and coming into contact with others until they are better.

”Even armed security personnel won’t assist; we have to change their mindsets,” he said. — Sapa