Original Research

Losses along the tuberculosis sputum sample referral cascade for Mpongwe District, Zambia

Lyson Nkhoma, Josphat Bwembya, Edwin Chansa, Ramya Kumar, Ibou Thior, Victoria Musonda, Gershom Chongwe, Alwyn Mwinga
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a3710 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.3710 | © 2023 Lyson Nkhoma, Josphat Bwembya, Edwin Chansa, Ramya Kumar, Ibou Thior, Victoria Musonda, Gershom Chongwe, Alwyn Mwinga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 June 2022 | Published: 21 February 2023

About the author(s)

Lyson Nkhoma, Mpongwe District Health Office, Ministry of Health, Mpongwe, Zambia
Josphat Bwembya, United States Agency for International Development Eradicate TB Project, PATH, Lusaka, Zambia; and Research Directorate, Zambart, Lusaka, Zambia
Edwin Chansa, Mpongwe District Health Office, Ministry of Health, Mpongwe, Zambia
Ramya Kumar, United States Agency for International Development Eradicate TB Project, PATH, Lusaka, Zambia; and Research Directorate, Zambart, Lusaka, Zambia
Ibou Thior, Department of HIV, TB and Viral Hepatitis, PATH, Washington DC, United States
Victoria Musonda, United States Agency for International Development Eradicate TB Project, PATH, Lusaka, Zambia
Gershom Chongwe, Department of Research, Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Ndola, Zambia
Alwyn Mwinga, Research Directorate, Zambart, Lusaka, Zambia

Abstract

Background: In resource limited-settings, timely tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis depends upon referral of sputum samples from non-diagnostic to diagnostic facilities for examination. The TB programme data for 2018 suggested losses in Mpongwe District’s sputum referral cascade.

Aim: This study aimed to identify the referral cascade stage where loss of sputum specimen occurred.

Setting: Primary health care facilities in Mpongwe District, Copperbelt Province, Zambia.

Methods: Data were retrospectively collected from one central laboratory and six referring health facilities between January and June 2019, using a paper-based tracking sheet. Descriptive statistics were generated in SPSS version 22.

Results: Of the 328 presumptive pulmonary TB patients found in presumptive TB registers at referring facilities, 311 (94.8%) submitted sputum samples and were referred to the diagnostic facilities. Of these, 290 (93.2%) were received at the laboratory, and 275 (94.8%) were examined. The remaining 15 (5.2%) were rejected for reasons such as ‘insufficient sample’. Results for all examined samples were sent back and received at referring facilities. Referral cascade completion rate was 88.4%. Median turnaround time was six days (IQR = 1.8).

Conclusion: Losses in the sputum referral cascade for Mpongwe District mainly occurred between dispatch of sputum samples and receipt at diagnostic facility. Mpongwe District Health Office needs to establish a system to monitor and evaluate the movement of sputum samples along the referral cascade to minimize losses and ensure timely TB diagnosis.

Contribution: This study has highlighted, at primary health care level for resource limited settings, the stage in the sputum sample referral cascade where losses mainly occur.


Keywords

tuberculosis; sputum; sample; referral; cascade; losses; examination; diagnosis.

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