Treatment delay among pulmonary tuberculosis patients in pastoralist communities in Bale Zone, Southeast Ethiopia

Awol Hussen, Sibhatu Biadgilign, Fasil Tessema, Shikur Mohammed, Kebede Deribe, Amare Deribew
BMC Research Notes 2012, 5: 320

BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in Africa with Ethiopia being the most affected. Treatment delay is an important indicator of access to TB diagnosis and treatment. However, little is known about factors associated with treatment delay of pulmonary TB among pastoralists. Health facility based cross sectional study was conducted on 129 pulmonary TB patients in pastoralist community. The study was conducted in three health centers and a hospital. Time between onset of TB symptoms and first visit to a professional health care provider (patient delay), and the time between first visits to the professional health care provider to the date of diagnosis (provider's delay) were analyzed using SPSS 16.0 statistical software.

FINDINGS: A total of 129 new smear positive pulmonary TB patients participated in the study. The median total delay was 97 days. The median patient and health provider delays were 63 and 34 days, respectively. Ninety six percent of the patients were delayed for more than the twenty one days cutoff point. Patient delay was positively associated with first visit to traditional healer/private clinic/drug shop, rural residence, being illiterate, living in more than 10 kilometers from health facility; severity of illness at first presentation to health facility. Provider delay was positively associated with rural residence, being illiterate, patient with good functional status, patients in contact with more than two health providers, and place of first visit being traditional healer/private clinic/drug shop.

CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that majority of smear positive patients delayed either for diagnosis or treatment, thus continue to serve as reservoirs of infection. This indicates that there is a need for intervention to decrease patient and provider delays. Effort to reduce delays in pastoralist communities should focus on improving access to services in rural communities, engaging traditional and private health providers and should target illiterate individuals.

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