According to Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., dean of the UP Manila College of Public Health, the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that also made it difficult for patients to receive TB treatment.
“Indeedn COVID-19 pandemic has overtaken other public health concerns, especially those considered as major public health challenges. There were challenges related to active TB case finding due to restricted movement of both the patients and the healthcare workers,” Belizario told Manila Standard in an interview.
The output of TB laboratories, particularly those undertaking TB Gene Xpert, diminished as equipment were utilized for COVID-19 testing.
Patients could not go to TB centers to claim their anti-TB medications while prevention was also affected as TB contact tracing was limited by quarantine restrictions
“With all of these immediate effects of COVID-19 to the program, TB control efforts are seriously affected. TB incidence is expected to remain high and more patients will experience morbidities and even complications from undiagnosed and untreated TB cases,” Belizario said.
In addition, an increase in the risk for development of multi-drug-resistant TB is likely because of incomplete treatment. If all these will continue, more patients are expected to die of TB in the future,” he added.
To strengthen the capacity of healthworkers in managing drug-resistant TB, Johnson & Johnson (Philippines) Inc. and the UP Manila College of Public Health have launched the online learning platform TB Academy.
“Johnson and Johnson (Philippines), Inc. has collaborated with National TB program and its stakeholders to provide educational and training support to our treating physicians. This is to strengthen their capability building in managing patients during this pandemic,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto, J&J head of medical affairs.
“We are also initiating projects that will help improve our case finding capabilities to look and diagnose more patients so that they will be treated early and promptly. These efforts, together with the support of all stakeholders in TB program will help boost the healthcare system’s capacity to address the TB problem of the country,” he added.
The TB Academy, in particular, will cover three training levels (clinical officers and nurses, clinicians, and drug-resistant TB experts) conducted via webinars.
The Philippines accounts for six percent of the total estimated TB cases globally, data from the World Health Organization 2020 Global Tuberculosis Report showed.
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