It is either you have tuberculosis, or you don’t – Cummings
It is either you have tuberculosis (TB), or you don’t have it.
And, terms like latent tuberculosis and active tuberculosis do not make a lot of sense to a significant number of practitioners.
That is according to parliamentary representative for West Kingstown Daniel Cummings who made those statements at a press briefing at Democrat House on Wednesday.
Cummings, the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) shadow minister for health said that the Ministry of Health, knows that there is a problem with TB in the country, but instead of coming clean, they are more concerned about their image.
During debate on the 2019 Budget last week, Cummings spoke about what he considered a TB outbreak at the Mental Health Centre (MHC) at Glen, which was denied by Minister of Health Luke Browne.
“You understand my anger with this, when there comes denial and denial in a no less of a place than the House and challenging me,” Cummings told reporters.
He said the conditions at the MHC make it easy for TB to be spread to the general population.
“There are people who move between the prisons and the mental health institution on a regular basis. There are people who move in and out of the mental health institution from being on the streets, back in and out.”
He said that nurses and medics have to work in the MHC and if they are exposed, they can in turn spread the disease to their family members, friends and patients. He added also that persons who visit the institution from time to time are also at risk.
“I hasten to add…once you have been diagnosed and you started the prescribed course of treatment that ought to be taken continuously over a period of time, within a reasonable time the chance of you spreading this disease could be reduced to almost zero.
The West Kingstown MP said recently at the MHC, a male patient who was susceptible to the disease because of another ailment, demonstrated, for two straight weeks, all the clear signs and symptoms of somebody with active TB.
“…and only when that patient died and the mandatory test was done that showed that he had active TB then they tried to do something…not coming to the public and admitting there is a problem, so that those who are going to the institution would know what caution to take,” Cummings stated.
He said that the Ministry of Health should have informed persons of the TB situation because that was the correct thing to do.
“No, that can’t happen, everybody has to be coerced into stating that all is well, quite literally in this country when everyone of them ought to know that is not correct, when so many other doctors in this country have been treating active TB cases, but are constrained by their professional ethics form going public.
“It is in this background that I find the Ministry, led by senator Luke Browne to be so reprehensible…this is not a matter for stigmatism, this is a matter for effective management. Telling half-truths and innuendoes and making people not being able to deal with it.”
Cummings said that proof of what he is saying could be found in the fact that the entire staff of the MHC was tested for TB and this would not have been so if there wasn’t a problem.
Cummings also noted that on January 27 this year, a District Medical Officer (DMO) wrote to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer Beache, after an employee had requested leave and was denied.
He said that employee was in close contact with the person at the MHC who had TB and had died, and that person was traumatized and wanted leave and when that leave was denied, the DMO intervened with information that the person was exposed to TB and the leave was granted.
“The motive for requiring leave, believe it or not was challenged and the doctor then resorted to providing the Chief Medical Officer with information that justified his action in offering leave to the patient,” said Cummings who claimed that the person who requested the leave also tested positive for TB.
But reports are that the worker Cummings mentioned did not test positive for active TB, but instead had latent TB.
There are different forms of TB, among them, latent TB, pulmonary TB and active TB.
With latent TB, a person shows no signs of an infection, but the bacteria is in their lungs hiding out. The body is capable of containing it at that particular time, so there are no signs or symptoms and the person is not contagious and cannot pass it on. However, should that person’s immune system take a dip for whatever reason, the bacteria can leave the warded off area and begin causing active TB.
On Thursday, Dr Jose Davy, specialist in infectious diseases, once again stressed that there is no outbreak of active TB at the MHC.