Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MSF will quit Tuberculosis treatment program

MSF will quit Tuberculosis treatment program

MSF will quit Tuberculosis treatment program

Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) France has withdrawn technical support and

will stop financial assistance for a homecare program that administers medicines

for tuberculosis (TB) patients.

"We did [this program] for five years and

now it is time for us to withdraw," said Catherine Quillet, MSF's head of

mission. "[The Ministry of Health] can do it on its own. It is a very

inexpensive strategy."

MSF was working in conjunction with the Ministry

of Health (MOH) for the Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse (DOTS) program,

which started as a pilot project in 1997, said MSF's Dr Laura Pariente. By last

year the program had expanded to cover four operational districts in Phnom

Penh.

The eight-month DOTS program begins with a surveillance period.

During the first two months, nurses from MOH go to the patient's house to ensure

the medicine is taken, or the patient comes to a clinic.

Patients are

also educated about their medicine and the importance of taking it everyday. The

danger of quitting treatment midway is that the disease can develop resistance,

which breeds a serious form of drug resistant TB, said Dr Ikushi Onozaki, chief

advisor of the Japanese-funded National Tuberculosis Control Project.

For

the next six months, patients come to a clinic once a month to pick up their

medicine and check in with doctors.

"We do a sputum check in the second,

fifth and eighth months," said Dr Mao Tan Eang, director of the National Center

for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT). "We do this to see the results of

the treatment."

Most patients choose homecare since it cuts down on the

time they spend at the clinic and means they do not incur travel costs, said

MSF's Quillet.

"They can still go to work," she said. "[DOTS helped]

increase the quality of life for the patient."

Until it stopped its

support, MSF trained DOTS staff and paid transportation costs for home visits.

Although the organization will provide financial assistance until the end of the

year, Dr Eang said the program now needed to find another supporter.

"We

will be looking for financial as well as technical support from all the partners

- NGOs or bilateral organizations - to continue the project," he said. "I think

we will be able to get the support [because it] is a priority."

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