Occupational health policies and practices related to TB in health care workers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Public Health Action
Authors:Tudor, C., Van der Walt, M., Hill, M., Farley, J. E.
Three district hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with specialized drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) wards.
To increase understanding of the implementation of occupational health (OH) and infection control (IC) guidelines for the prevention and control of TB among health care workers (HCWs).
An operational cross-sectional study conducted between July and September 2011, consisting of interviews with OH and IC nurses and chart review of OH medical records.
Although general national and provincial OH policies are in place, no specific OH policies exist for hospital settings. Two of three hospitals had a full-time OH nurse and all had a full-time IC nurse. All hospitals offered TB symptom screening; however, only 19% of HCWs were screened in 2010. TB incidence among HCWs was 1958 per 100 000 population in 2010. All hospitals offered HIV counseling and testing; however, only 22% of staff were tested across sites. Two hospitals offered isoniazid preventive therapy to HIV-positive staff and reassigned these staff to low TB risk areas.
While OH policies and procedures are in place, implementation of these policies and procedures is inconsistent. This potentially places HCWs at risk of acquiring TB. These findings support the need for strengthening OH and IC services to prevent TB.