‘We’re on the right track’

2010-12-04 15:12

Bonakele Manikela has seen it all – hardships and improvements – while working with HIV/Aids patients in a rural area over the past six years.

Staff shortages and a lack of equipment such as computers have been the biggest problems at the Shongwe Hospital’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV site in Tonga, near Malalane.

Now the matron is upbeat.

“When we started rolling out anti-retrovirals in 2004, we had many patients and very few doctors and nurses. I’ve seen changes along the way,” Manikela said.

“We used to see 500 patients a day. Now there are 17 clinics in our sub-district that are administering the anti-retroviral programme. It’s no longer hectic. We see about 200 patients a day.

“The staff shortage is still an issue,” she added, “but we would rather not talk about the doctor or nurse patient ratio because we’re not there yet.”

Shongwe Hospital is responsible for the remote Nkomazi area, which like all rural areas in the country, faces a shortage of doctors and nurses.

The site has two doctors, seven nurses and three assistant nurses. They deal with nearly 7?000 patients, about 580 of whom are children.

Manikela said the hospital had a partnership with an non-governmental organisation Right to Care that had brought some relief.

Right to Care has assisted with computers, medical staff and transport to villages to implement a voluntary HIV counselling and testing programme.

“We’re making progress to meet targets set by national government.

The patients’ response to our anti-retroviral programme shows that we’re on the right track,” she said.

“Patients adhere to treatment, and most of them – more than 90% – are still on the first regimen since 2004.

We have social workers and caregivers who assist us in tracking patients and identifying problems that prevent patients from sticking to their treatment.

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