Premier Alan Winde's visit to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Earlier today, I visited the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH ) to help create awareness of the services available to children who are infected with Tuberculosis (TB) in the Western Cape. Please see photos attached.
I also met with experts Professor Brian Eley and Professor Heather Zar, as well as the RCWMCH Acting CEO, Dr Anita Parbhoo, to learn more about the excellent work being done at this facility to care for our youngest residents who have been infected with TB.
This follows my commitment on World TB Day that the Western Cape Government considers this epidemic an emergency that must be fought with the same determination as we have demonstrated in our response to COVID-19.
While most cases of childhood TB in the Metro West region are diagnosed and treated at community TB clinics, some children require inpatient care because of the severity of their illness and because of other underlying conditions.
In 2020 alone, there were 217 children diagnosed with TB at the RCWMCH, at an average of 18 cases per month. There are five main categories of children who end up being admitted to the hospital.
They are generally:
- Very young - under the age of 2 years of age;
- Require inpatient care because they are ill and incapacitated;
- Have complex forms of TB such as TB meningitis or other types of extrapulmonary TB requiring specialised care;
- Have drug-resistant TB; or
- Have comorbid conditions.
Upon being discharged most of the children are referred to their local TB clinics for ongoing TB treatment. Some children with TB resistant or other complex forms of TB who require ongoing specialised care but who cannot be treated at home, attend the specialised TB clinic at the RCWMCH as outpatients, run in collaboration with a paediatrician from Brooklyn Chest Hospital.
It is important that parents look out for signs of possible TB infection so that treatment can be provided as soon as possible.
Children with TB are often thin and undernourished, which would first be noticed when the child’s weight is being plotted into the ‘Road to Health’ booklet which all children receive in the public health sector.
The child would generally be feeling unwell with a loss of appetite, as well as being tired and fatigued. Night sweats, especially if the child is so wet that they need to be changed, is another symptom – although severe night sweats are not common in children. Lastly, parents should look out for consistent coughing, which lasts for longer than two weeks.
If children display these symptoms, parents are urged to take them to their nearest clinic where they will get a free TB test, and where treatment will be provided. If further specialised care is needed, depending on the case, our network of hospitals is also on standby to assist you.
Parents must also make sure that children below the age of 5 get the BCG vaccine which prevents TB infection. Because of Lockdown restrictions, not all children who should have been vaccinated in 2020 got this life-saving vaccine. We are doing whatever we can to catch-up, but we need the help of parents in ensure this happens too.
During my visit today, I also had the great privilege of being interviewed by the award-winning RX Radio. This radio station is run by and for children and operated from the hospital. I used this opportunity to share information directly with children on what we are doing to fight TB and to also create awareness on the symptoms to look out for.
The Western Cape Government is determined to fight the TB epidemic with the same courage and determination as we have shown in our fight against COVID-19. We have learnt valuable lessons over the last year and introduced many innovations that have made us more responsive and agile.
We will use all the lessons learnt to defeat TB in the Western Cape and to help deliver the dignity and well-being that every adult and every child deserves.
From the Western Cape Government’s website: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/tb
How to prevent TB:
- Know the symptoms of TB and urge anyone showing TB symptoms to get tested immediately.
- Ensure that people living with TB takes their full course of medication, as instructed.
- Make sure that children below the age of 5 are vaccinated with the BCG vaccine to prevent TB infection. Children younger than 5 who are in contact with a TB patient must be given preventative therapy.
- All people living with HIV and AIDS must be screened regularly. If they don’t have TB, they can be given preventative therapy to reduce their risk of contracting it.
- If someone in your house has the disease, keep your home well ventilated to prevent the spread of germs.
- Keep windows open in taxis, trains and buses to ensure good air circulation.