Hepatitis patients outstrip scheme

MNH Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department of Medicine, Dr John Rwegasha (centre)

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THE number of Hepatitis B patients expected to benefit through the treatment programme administered by Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) has increased four times, thus posing a challenge of accommodating them.

The programme financed by the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US covers the cost for viral load test and treatment amounting to 800,000/- per patient.

Presenting the project’s mid-year progress and performance review in Dar es Salaam yesterday, MNH Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department of Medicine, Dr John Rwegasha, said that the five-year project targeted 2,400 Hepatitis B patients.

He said over a period of six months, only total of 950 patients were registered while the project aimed to have 240 patients who could benefit from treatment services over a five-year period.

Dr Rwegasha said that of 950 patients who were registered, 450 failed to complete the processes which required them to undergo diagnosis for liver and kidney function, ultrasound and full blood picture, among others, whose costs are covered by individual patients.

He noted that most of the patients who managed to complete the process were those who had been insured, noting those who have been left out of the programme were those who lacked health insurance cover.

He cited another reason as distance, because currently the service was only available at MNH, thus making it difficult for the patients to return for their results, especially those who live in upcountry regions.

“We expected to have 240 on treatment by that time but the response has been four times higher,” he said. He explained that according to literature, only 10 per cent of all hepatitis patients who could have been registered within five years could receive treatment.

Dr Rwegasha elaborated that after a patient undergoes viral load test, he or she can either receive treatment or not because some of them were also found to have developed immunity. He said out of 950 patients who were registered, 500 were enrolled for treatment, of whom 100 were eligible for treatment.

“Out of 100 patients who are eligible for treatment, only 40 are currently receiving treatment,” he added.

He noted, however, that they were planning to conduct active follow-ups of the patients who had been left out of the programme so that they can benefit from the service because the programme has been divided into phases whereby the first phase covered recruitment and enrolment. 

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