When I arrive at the hospital, I am welcomed by the voices of child in-patients at Sizwe Hospital, as they sweetly sing ‘Go away TB, go away’. The hospital is the only one of its kind in Gauteng that provides treatment and management for Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) and Extremely Drug Resistant (XDR) TB. It has 266 beds. At the moment 169 patients occupy the beds. Twelve of the current in-patients are children.
In the adult section of the hospital, one of the patients is Siphamandla Nkukayi, who hails from the Eastern Cape. He has been living with MDR TB for almost a year. He was admitted at Sizwe Hospital in December last year.
‘I started getting sick in February last year. I was diagnosed with pulmonary TB and was treated for it for four months – only to find that they misdiagnosed me. I was actually living with MDR (TB) at the time. I only began my MDR treatment in May last year. Until now, I am still on treatment till 2014. I was admitted at Sizwe on the 23rd of December last year’, says Nkukayi.
He says living with MDR TB is not easy, as one can be on treatment for a prolonged amount of time. He says what has kept him afloat is his positive attitude towards the disease.
‘Once you realise that you have a disease, whatever it is, you must stay positive so that your body can respond to your treatment. That is how I changed my attitude. It is not easy to take drugs everyday because of the bad side effects. But you need to be strong, patient and have endurance for the treatment’, says Nkukayi.
Emelda Ramushila is one of the health workers at Sizwe Hospital. She has been working here for two years. She says one of their big challenges is encouraging a patient to stay on their treatment till their treatment term comes to an end.
‘Some of them tend to give up and not want to take their treatment till the end of that period. We try to talk to the patients and encourage them. We involve their families to come in and support them so that they can be encouraged to finish their treatment’.
Ramushila says it’s important for people to know that TB is curable. However, people are usually diagnosed very late and are already ill when they approach their clinics. This hinders the healing and treatment process. Chief Executive Officer of Sizwe Hospital, Dr Rihanna Louw, says the delay in getting to a health facility is directly linked to stigma.
‘The other challenge is stigma. When you talk about MDR or XDR, people are still a little bit scared. So, people don’t always visit the hospital as frequent. Another challenge is that patients stay here for very long, and that has an impact on their lives. So we have to keep the morale high’, says Dr Louw.
She says the long stay may sometimes lead to the patient losing their job, which can also be attributed to reasons why they may give up on treatment and default or fail to complete it.