Assessing and improving care for patients with TB/HIV/STIs in a rural district in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa
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Setting: Despite the prioritisation of TB, HIV and STI programmes in South Africa, service targets are not achieved, have had little effect, and the magnitude of the epidemics continues to escalate. Objective. To report on a participatory quality improvement intervention designed to evaluate these priority programmes in primary health care (PHC) clinics in a rural district in KwaZulu-Natal. Methods: A participatory quality improvement intervention with district health managers, PHC supervisors and researchers was used to modify a TB/HIV/STI audit tool for use in a rural area, conduct a district-wide clinic audit, assess performance, set targets and develop plans to address the problems identified. Results: We highlight weaknesses in training and support of staff at PHC clinics, pharmaceutical and laboratory failures, and inadequate monitoring of patients as contributing to poor TB, HIV and STI service implementation. In the 25 facilities audited, 71% of the clinical staff had received no training in TB diagnosis and management, and 46% of the facilities were visited monthly by a PHC supervisor. Eighty per cent of the facilities experienced non-availability of essential drugs and supplies; polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results were not documented for 54% of specimens assessed, and the mean length of time between eligibility for ART and starting treatment was 47 days. Conclusion: Through a participatory approach, a TB/HIV/STI audit tool was successfully adapted and implemented in a rural district. It yielded information enabling managers to identify obstacles to TB, HIV and STI service implementation and develop plans to address these. The audit can be used by the district to monitor priority services at a primary level.