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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135

Abstract

NAIDOO, A; NAIDOO, S; GATHIRAM, P  and  LALLOO, U. Tuberculosis in medical doctors - a study of personal experiences and attitudes. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2013, vol.103, n.3, pp. 176-180. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: The concurrent TB and HIV epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa place all healthcare workers (HCWs) at increased risk of exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. AIM: This study explores personal experiences, attitudes and perceptions of medical doctors following treatment for TB within the healthcare system. METHOD: Sixty-two medical doctors who were diagnosed with and treated for TB during 2007 - 2009 agreed to participate and complete a semi-structured questionnaire. RESULTS: The response rate was 64.5% (N=40). The mean age of participants was 33.7 years (standard deviation ±10.6). A correct diagnosis of TB was made within 7 days of clinical presentation in 20% of participants, and was delayed beyond 3 weeks in 52.5%. Non-routine special investigations and procedures were performed in 26 participants. Complications following invasive procedures were reported by 8 participants. Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) was diagnosed in 4 participants. Nineteen considered defaulting on their treatment because of drug side-effects. The majority (n=36) expressed concerns regarding lack of infection control at the workplace, delays in TB diagnosis and negative attitudes of senior medical colleagues and administrators. Ninety per cent of participants indicated that their personal illness experiences had positively changed their professional approach to patients in their current practice. CONCLUSION: The inappropriate delays in diagnosis in a large number of participants, coupled with a number of negative personal perceptions towards their treatment, are cause for concern. The results further amplify the need for improved educational and awareness programmes among all healthcare personnel (including hospital administrators), adherence to national health guidelines, effective infection control measures, pre- and post-employment screening in all HCWs, and changes in attitudes on the part of senior medical colleagues and administrators.

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