/ 25 March 2008

TB patients used illness to scare off guards

More than 30 tuberculosis (TB) patients used their illness to scare security and nursing personnel as they ran away from a hospital in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said on Tuesday.

Twenty-five patients with multidrug-resistant TB and eight with extreme drug-resistant TB overpowered guards at the Jose Pearson Hospital on Thursday last week after taking off their protective masks.

”They know they are highly infectious … part of their strategy is to pull off their masks while pushing their way out … it’s the same strategy they used a month ago,” said Kupelo.

While some patients had returned to the hospital at the end of the Easter weekend, 10 patients were on Tuesday still unaccounted for.

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

Kupelo said security was not the problem, but that the issue was to work on the patients’ mindsets and make them understand that they were endangering the lives of relatives and whoever came into contact with them when they left the hospital.

”As from today [Tuesday] the department [of health] will educate all patients and make them understand the consequences of their actions.”

He said once all patients had returned to the hospital, a team would be sent out to locate families so that they could be interviewed and screened.

The department believed the missing patients had been visiting their families in the area. — Sapa