"Treatment is of primary importance, and social assistance is secondary": A qualitative study on the organisation of tuberculosis (TB) care and patients' experience of starting and staying on TB treatment in Riga, Latvia
Vidal, Nicole L.
van der Werf, Marieke J.
Moore, David A. J.
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Kielmann, K., Vidal, N. L., Riekstina, V., Krutikov, M., van der Werf, M. J., Biraua, E., Duric, P. & Moore, D. A. J. (2018) "Treatment is of primary importance, and social assistance is secondary": A qualitative study on the organisation of tuberculosis (TB) care and patients' experience of starting and staying on TB treatment in Riga, Latvia. PLoS ONE 13(10):e0203937.
Background Vulnerable individuals with tuberculosis (TB) struggle to access and stay on treatment. While patient-related and social barriers to TB treatment adherence are well documented, less is known about how the organisation and delivery of TB care influences adherence behaviour. Aim To examine the influence of TB service organisation and culture on patients’ experience of starting and staying on treatment in Riga, Latvia. Methods An intervention package to support adherence to TB treatment amongst vulnerable patients in Riga, Latvia was piloted between August 2016 and March 2017. Qualitative observations (5), interviews with staff (20) and with TB patients (10) were conducted mid-way and at the end of the intervention to understand perceptions, processes, and experiences of TB care. Results The organisation of TB services is strongly influenced by a divide between medical and social aspects of TB care. Communication and care practices are geared towards addressing individual risk factors for non-adherence rather than the structural vulnerabilities that patients experience in accessing care. Support for vulnerable patients is limited because of standardised programmatic approaches, resource constraints and restricted job descriptions for non-medical staff. Conclusion Providing support for vulnerable patients is challenged in this setting by the strict division between medical and social aspects of TB care, and the organisational focus on patient-related rather than systems-related barriers to access and adherence. Potential systems interventions include the introduction of multi-disciplinary approaches and teams in TB care, strengthening patient literacy at the point of treatment initiation, as well as stronger linkages with social care organisations.