Decentralisation of tuberculosis treatment from the main hospitals to the peripheral health units and in the community within Machakos district, Kenya.
SETTING: A rural district, Machakos, in Kenya, facing decreasing national resources for health and an increasing tuberculosis (TB) caseload fuelled by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact on district TB programme performance of decentralising TB treatment by providing ambulatory care in the hospital and peripheral health units and in the community. METHODS: A comparative study of district TB programme performance before and after the decentralisation of TB services at the end of 1997. To facilitate ambulatory care, ethambutol replaced streptomycin in the new treatment regimen. FINDINGS: The number of patients registered in the control period (1996) was 1141, of whom almost 100% were admitted during the intensive phase of TB treatment, and in the intervention period (1998 and 1999), it was 3244, of whom only 153 (4.7%) required admission in the intensive phase. Of 3244 TB patients (all forms) registered in the intervention period, the number (%) choosing the different options for directly observed treatment (DOT) supervision were: hospital clinic 1618 (49.9%), peripheral health unit 904 (27.9%), community volunteer 569 (17.5%) and hospitalisation 153 (4.7%). The options were found to be acceptable to patients, their families and health staff. The treatment outcomes among new sputum smear-positive pulmonary TB patients were similar in the intervention and control cohorts, with treatment success rates of 88% vs. 85% and death rates of 4% vs. 6%, respectively. Treatment completion was significantly higher among new sputum smear-negative and extra-pulmonary TB patients in the intervention than in the control cohort (79% vs. 48%, respectively). CONCLUSION: The decentralisation of the intensive phase of TB treatment resulted in maintenance of good TB programme performance, while Machakos hospital closed its TB wards. A separate paper describes the cost-effectiveness of this approach. The National Tuberculosis Control Programme plans to adopt this approach as national policy.