Airline pilots are supposed to desist from scaring passengers patients even after learning that things are going awfully wrong, and this is because they are trained to appreciate the fact that stormy times are the perfect occasions for them to help people take heart.
Much the same applies in respect of doctors and the other people practising medicine - there are hardly any moments in time when they ought to extend more love and assurance to their patients than when the know they are dealing with terminally ill cases.
Thus, the chief executive of Tanzania’s most prominent TB referral hospital went public on Tuesday to warn that patients at the facility reluctant to continue with medication risked sure death only because he knew using euphemisms to veil the harsh message would be a lot worse than being blunt.
Some patients admitted to the specialised hospital – at the Kibong’oto suburb of Moshi municipality - have recently started complaining that the newly arrived TB drugs currently administered to them had proved so exceptionally strong that they were making them have serious problems coping.
But medical experts including the hospital’s DG are far from impressed and have sworn that they have assurance from the UN health agency (WHO) that there is no better “last line of defence” medicine for chronic TB than the drugs over which patients have expressed reservations.
So, by whose word do we go – patients or those charged with ensuring that they regain normal health and rejoin their kith and kin and other fellow Tanzanians in building the nation?
Medical experts contacted for comment on the saga concur that the high potency of the specific drugs could have some side-effects, but they emphasize that there is simply no escaping the ensuing physical and psychological discomfort. Surely no one would have expected them to lie just to please patients!
Our advice to the patients concerned, some of whom are reported to have contemplated deserting the hospital in protest of perceived intransigence by their doctors and nurses, is that they should have confidence in the hospital staff and therefore continue with treatment to the very end.
We have it on good authority that the government worked non-stop to ensure the hospital had enough stock of the drugs soon after supplies dried up sometime last month.
We have also learnt that, whereas TB patients are not charged a cent for their treatment, it actually costs between 10m/- and 15m/- for a patient with chronic TB to get full treatment.
With so much being done to rid our country of the debilitating disease, it should be sad indeed for those expected to appreciate the generous expert attention they get not to “reciprocate” for their own good by continuing with treatment.
The war on TB and malaria is faced with daunting challenges in Tanzania and globally and it is vital that the resources this calls for be put to the best use.
We thus hope the Kibong’oto patients will take a cue from a report just released by the World Health Organisation that the last decade has witnessed a dramatic fall in the incidence of malaria deaths globally but financial constraints threaten to curb future progress.