An exploration of the reasons for defaulting amongst Tuberculosis patients on the Community Based Directly-Observed Treatment Programme in the Siyanda district, Northern Cape Province
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Background: Tuberculosis (TB) poses a major public health challenge in South Africa and in the Northern Cape Province. The province has the third highest in TB incidence rate in the country. Poor adherence to TB treatment impacts negatively on treatment outcomes. Siyanda district in the Northern Cape Province has the second highest number of TB defaulters in the province despite the fact that 79.9% of these patients are on Community Based Direct Observation of Treatment (CBDOT). Aim: To explore the reasons for defaulting of TB patients from TB treatment in the CBDOT Programme in the Siyanda district, Northern Cape Province Study design: This was a qualitative exploratory study. Study population and sampling: Two TB nurses with varying years of experience in the TB Control Programme serving as key informants were selected from the participating facilities in the study area. Ten TB defaulters who were on the CBDOT programme were selected from the Electronic TB Register. Two focus group discussions (FGDs) comprising of purposively selected DOT Supporters (five in one group and six in the other) from different NGOs in the community were selected for maximum variation. Data collection: Key informant interviews were conducted with the TB nurses. Records of all defaulters in the study population were reviewed including clinic progress notes and patient TB treatment cards. In-depth interviews were conducted with the TB patients. FGDs were conducted with DOT supporters. Analysis: Analysis commenced simultaneously with collection of data. This enabled the researcher to continuously review and reflect on the data collected. Thematic content analysis was done.Categories emerged through the inductive process of the data analysis. Notes that were kept during data collection, reflections, audiotapes and transcripts were used to support the thick description of the findings. Results: The participants generally appreciated the programme and mostly had a good relationship with the DOT supporters. However, the quality of care exacerbated by inadequate health services such as lack of adherence counselling training of health professionals, low levels of education amongst TB defaulters, were found to be major contributory factors to TB defaulting. The patients interrupted treatment several times before defaulting, were not counselled during the interruption phase and understood TB messages differently. TB defaulters in the Siyanda District face socio economic challenges which include alcohol abuse, a major historic ill in the district and the grape farming community in the region. The impact of the disability grant on TB treatment adherence remains anecdotal and requires further research as TB defaulters did not admit to defaulting so that they could continue benefiting from the disability grant although these statements were refuted by the DOT supporters and key informants. The attitude of employers and fear of losing employment were also contributing factors. Conclusion and recommendations: It has become evident that TB in the Siyanda District is a public health issue. The predominantly rural, impoverished and transient community that moves to the farms to seek employment requires a CBDOT programme that will address pertinent challenges in the district to achieve a positive reduction in the TB defaulter rate. It will require collaboration with stakeholders including farmers, to address the challenges posed by the disease. Improved staff allocation, staff capacity development and community education are also recommended to improve quality of care.