WHO says health care staff shortages may impede efforts to cut TB

Staff recruitment and retainment are difficult because of low pay, unhealthy and often unsafe work environments, poor career prospects and HIV-related worker illnesses. These are factors restricting progress towards the goal of detecting 70 per cent of cases and curing 85 per cent of the people diagnosed by the target date, WHO said.Of the 22 high-burden countries (HBCs) that account for 4 out of 5 of the world’s TB cases, 17 have reported that their efforts to reach the 2005 targets are being hampered by staffing problems. The HBCs include China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria.”For a country’s economy to grow, it must have a healthy workforce. At the same time the workforce has to depend on highly motivated and qualified staff in the health sector,” said Dr. Leopold Blanc, WHO Coordinator for the Stop TB Department.”We need to promote improved working conditions for TB control staff and also an incentive for them to stay working in TB. Opening up career opportunities and supporting ongoing training schemes is one way to ensure we retain staff.”In some countries, despite drawbacks, thousands of volunteers and health workers deliver lifesaving TB drugs daily to patients under the comprehensive Directly Observed Therapy Short-Course (DOTS) strategy, making sure patients take all of their prescribed medicines and, thus, limiting the development of multi-drug-resistant TB.For workers in some of these areas, the dangers are very apparent. At a conference in the Netherlands hosted by the Dutch KNVC charity earlier this week, participants paid tribute to Annalena Tonelli, who ran a clinic for refugees in Somalia and was shot to death on Sunday. She was instrumental in developing DOTS tuberculosis control programmes in Africa.

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