Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
HEALTH workers in the country are reluctant to undergo Tuberculosis (TB) screening despite constituting one of the high risk groups to contract the disease, it has emerged.
Journalists from various media houses last week visited a number of health facilities in Mashonaland West province where it emerged that nurses were not keen on being screened for TB.
Health workers, mine workers, prison inmates and sex workers are some of the groups at high risk for TB exposure and infection.
A Ministry of Health and Child Care official confirmed that the trend of health workers shunning TB screening pervaded the entire country.
Some of the health facilities that were visited where nurses showed reluctance to get screened for TB include Karoi District Hospital, Banket District Hospital, Zvimba Rural Hospital, Father O’Hea Mission Hospital in Zvimba District and Donain Health centre in Mhondoro District.
Medical Superintendent at Father O’Hea Mission Hospital Dr Norbert Munozivei said health workers at the facility were reluctant to be screened of TB despite there being a policy requiring them to regularly undergo screening.
“Nurses here are supposed to be screened for TB after every six months because they come into contact with patients regularly thereby exposing them to infection. However turnout has been very low,” he said.
The health facility’s TB Nurse, Miss Joyce Ngavi concurred with Dr Munozivei.
“The turnout has been very low. Health workers are generally reluctant to be screened for TB despite the fact that they are at risk of getting the disease,” she said.
A TB Microscopist at Donain Health Centre in Mhondoro District, Miss Felistas Mathema confirmed that her work exposed her to TB and the situation was worsened due to unsuitable working conditions.
“Of course I’m at risk. It’s even worse when you consider that we have to improvise in most of what we do. I don’t have adequate protective clothing, neither do we have proper space to work from.
“I use this small office which we share and is also used as storeroom,” she said.
The incapacitation of Donain Health Centre, a TB microscopy centre, is despite the fact that the facility is situated in a mining area where TB cases are high.
Miss Mathema revealed that out of 10 patients that are screened for TB at the health centre every week two test positive for disease, with miners constituting the largest percentage of those that test positive for the disease.
Advocacy communication and social mobilisation officer at the National TB Programme in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Mr Andrew Nyambo, acknowledged that the challenge of reluctance by health workers to undergo regular TB screening was nationwide.
Mr Nyambo encouraged health facilities to have wellness programmes that allow workers to be screened for TB regularly as they were at risk of infection due to regular contact with patients in their daily work.
“As a health worker you are always in danger. On a daily basis you deal with patients, some of whom will be coughing. That puts you at risk of being infected.
“Hospitals and clinics should have a health and wellness programme for workers where you encourage them to get screened regularly,” he said.
The media tour was organised by International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the union) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Child Care.