Against the backdrop of the high prevalence rate of tuberculosis in the country, a medical practitioner, Dr Ndidi Nwosu, has called for the acceleration of all national programmes against the disease, blaming the spread of the disease on lack of awareness, improper diagnosis due to lack of state-of-art equipment and abuse of antibiotic drugs by Nigerians.
Speaking in an interview with The Guardian on the sidelines of the commissioning of a digital x-ray machine donated to St. Kizito Clinic, Lekki, Lagos State by Chevron Nigeria Limited as part of its support for the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria, Nwosu, who is the Consultant Community Physician at the hospital, said the country needed to embark on vigorous awareness campaign to curb the spread of the disease.
Nigeria is among the countries with the highest burden of TB in the world, a disease with fatal consequences if not diagnosed and treated adequately. In Africa, the country has the greatest TB burden and less than 25 per cent of all TB cases are diagnosed, increasing the fatalities from an otherwise curable disease. Over 10 per cent of the national burden of TB is reported by Lagos State, making it the state with the highest burden of the disease in Nigeria.
According to Nwosu, the prevalence rate used to be 19 per cent but it is now 24 per cent, an indication that the present strategies have been very inefficient. She added: “So, it has always been very poor and that is because people don’t think about TB. When people are sick, they think of malaria and typhoid; they don’t think of tuberculosis. They think that tuberculosis is for the poor. Even the healthcare professionals are not thinking about TB. That is why St. Kizito is engaged in some projects to strengthen healthcare professionals to start thinking TB.
“The second reason is that we abuse antibiotics in this country. When you are taking certain antibiotics, they will hide the TB and you will just think that you don’t have any problem. Nobody gets to know until it is very late. And it’s difficult to diagnose when the bacteria is hiding based on antibiotic cover. So, these two things are humongous problems.
“What we are doing at St. Kizito is to create the awareness. People need to know that if they are coughing, have fever or night sweats for up to two weeks, they should go for a Gene Xpert test, which is an improved diagnosis of TB. We have the machine here. If someone undergoes the test, even if it’s negative but he/she had the symptoms, the doctor will further evaluate. This is where the digital x-ray comes in for proper diagnosis. The good news is that TB is curable.”
St. Kizito Clinic is a recognised TB and HIV Centre, working in close collaboration with the Lagos Ministry of Health. The hospital, which is owned and managed by Loving Gaze, an independent not-for-profit organisation with more than 30 years of experience in Nigeria, is located in Jakande Housing Estate, Lekki. It is one of the comprehensive diagnostics and treatment TB DOTS centre with experienced and trained health personnel and standard laboratory operating in Eti-Osa and Lagos Island local councils. It has treated more than 2,000 TB cases since inception in 1991.
Nwosu believes the clinic would achieve more if the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for tuberculosis was accelerated. “What we need is an escalation of what is already being done. What you see is that people see good things to do and they just do it in a small corner and stop. If we are talking about TB all over Nigeria, the awareness cannot stop in one small corner. So, the strategy should be if you know about it, tell your neighbour and let the message spread.”
Meanwhile, the management of St. Kizito Clinic was full of praise for Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) for upgrading the analogue x–ray machine it donated to the clinic in the past to a digital x–ray machine. Explaining the value of the digital ex-ray machine, the management of the clinic said the digital imaging bypasses the films chemical processing, provides immediate image preview and availability, enhances the images’ quality and allows for the transfer of the results digitally for consultation in real time.
“More than 20,000 patients will benefit from this upgrade. This great stride will greatly increase effective TB screening towards identifying TB sufferers. TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease and requires acceleration of efforts to end its epidemic.“Chevron Nigeria Limited’s support to St. Kizito Clinic started in 2005 and has continued till date — a recognition of the professional daily work of the centre, which remains the only comprehensive diagnostic and treatment TB-DOTS unit with experienced and trained health personnel and laboratory operating in Eti-Osa LGA,” Medical Director of the clinic, Dr Alda Gemmani, said.
She added: “We are grateful to CNL for the consistent support provided to Loving Gaze through the years. Previously, CNL donated a mobile X-ray machine and film processor, which allowed us to commence radiology service at St. Kizito Clinic in 2014. This achievement has been vital in upgrading the quality of our services, especially for a prompt diagnosis of TB, cardio-respiratory diseases and orthopaedic pathologies. After having done so much for St. Kizito Clinic, the company has turned another dream into reality by donating a digital x-ray machine as a replacement for the analogue one, thus helping to significantly upgrade our x-ray service. This new machine will enable our radiology service to deliver quality, dynamic, modern and faster service.
On behalf of the patients, staff and management of Loving Gaze, we say a big thank you to Chevron Nigeria Limited. We are committed to continue to offer quality care to the people we serve.”General Manager, Policy Government and Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, in his remarks, explained that the company supports health programmes as part of its social investment initiatives. “This donation is in line with the NNPC/CNL Joint Venture’s ‘Tradition of Care’, which includes a robust health programme as part of our corporate responsibility obligations. The company views healthcare as a crucial social service that is at the core of its success as business,” he said.