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Improving the health of the population in Romania by increasing TB control

Project financed by the Norwegian Grants 2009 - 2014, within the RO 19 - Public Health Initiative.

Starting with March 2015, 1,000 people with multidrug resistant tuberculosis shall receive complete, continuous and quality treatment. By the end of June, 139 MDR TB patients were enrolled countrywide and receive treatment within the project “Improving the Health Status of the Romanian Population in Romania by Increasing Tuberculosis Control”.

The doctors in the local tuberculosis dispensaries monitor the health status of the patients enrolled in the program, thus helping them not to give up the treatment. We asked Dr Ariadna Petronela Fildan, MDR coordinator in Constanţa county, which are the advantages of this integrated system of patients treatment. Medical sciences PhD and associated professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Ovidius Univerity, Dr. Fildan has been a pulmonology doctor at the Constanţa Pulmonology Clinical Hospital starting with 2008.

In this project, what does patient-centred approach mean?

The core of the project is the patient, everything – from human to material resources –gravitating around him, aiming to heal the patient and contain the spread of the disease. Once the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis diagnostic confirmed, the fight with the disease begins, fight which is based on well established rules. First of all, the patient is informed by the attending doctor about the new diagnostic methods, the therapeutic options, the duration, advantages and possible complications of the therapy, concurrently underlying the fact that the disease can be defeated if the treatment if followed on a continuous basis, without interruption for the entire duration indicated by the doctor. One shall try to motivate the patient in order to enter the program, bringing as supreme argument the cure and the chance to a normal life. Each patient represents a specific case; they don’t come only with a diagnostic and a disease we must treat, but with an emotional, cultural and social background which we must consider when trying to motivate the patient. We try to answer to all the questions related to the disease and treatment, to provide them as much information as possible, in a clear way, tailored to the personal level of understating.

How important is the medical care accompanied by psychological care, how does this actually take place in hospitals? Which are the advantages and what is the difference between the new possibilities and what was done before?

Evidently, the psychological support is very important; a trained person can find the methods adequate to each patient to motivate them not to give up the treatment. In fact, the most important aspects in the success of a treatment are, first and foremost, the compliance and ensuring continuity. Psychological counselling at the initiation of the treatment but also during the entire course, when complications – some quite difficult to deal with and to control – might appear, is a major contributor to the therapeutic success. Unfortunately, not all the hospitals have trained staff and in this situation is our hospital in Constanţa as well. To bridge the gap, the discussions with the patient take place with the participation of the attending doctor, the chief of department or the chief of dispensary (according to the case, if the patient is hospitalized or in ambulatory), the medical director and the program coordinator. The advantages we have at this moment are considerable, starting with the fact that we can have an MDR TB diagnostic in a few hours, compared to a few months, through access to the newest molecular diagnostic methods, continuing with access to modern therapy, ensuring continuity, the treatment regimens being those established by the MDR commission, according to the international guidelines.

Social support: what is the role of the social vouchers?

The role of these vouchers is a motivational one. It has been observed that providing monthly “bonuses” – if the patient came to the doctor and was given the treatment in the presence of the doctor or nurse – increases the treatment compliance rate. As it is very well known, many of the patients face serious material difficulties and thus any help is welcome.

What feedback do you have from your patients, regarding this approach?

The patients are satisfied because they have the continuous treatment ensured, have an additional chance, by being included in this program, and understand the importance of the correct administration, without interruption, of the medication, because this is the only way they can be cured.

How many patients are enrolled in this program in Constanța?

Currently there are five patients enrolled for complete regimens and eleven patients enrolled for social support in order to increase their compliance to treatment. We hope as many as possible will be accepted.

What is the situation in the county regarding tuberculosis?

In Constanţa County, the tuberculosis incidence decreased constantly in the past 10 years, from the 3rd place at national level to the 12th place. Last year 634 cases of tuberculosis, new cases and relapses were notified, representing an incidence of 87.6 versus 89.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, in 2013. 38 cases were notified in children. What we noticed for the first half of this year is the high number of severe cases registered in our hospital, extended, milliary forms, meningo-encephalitis. Until now we had 13 deaths due to tuberculosis, which probably can be explained by the long latent period between the occurrence of the symptoms and the visit to the doctor.