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Bona: The TB case finding hero

Bonaventure Siala, G4S, and B4H officer Lorrie Tapora. Picture Credit: Business for Health about one of the people, whose life Bona saved.

Bonaventure Siala is one of 223 workplace TB wardens who have been trained by Businesses for Health: TB & HIV project. B4H coined the term ‘TB warden’ because like a deadly fire, TB in the workplace demands a rapid planned response. Bona, works at G4S, and is one of the most extraordinary heroes in our mission to reduce the social and economic burden TB places on families and businesses here in PNG. By learning about early case finding with B4H in 2018, this story is

Bona, is not a doctor, or a nurse, he’s simply a smart young man with a lot of common sense, and some new skills in approaching people about their health, and that coughing is not normal. With B4H’s TB Warden training he learnt the signs and symptoms of TB. Most importantly he learned to open his eyes and re-tune his ears to the most basic of warning signs… the sight and sounds of coughing.

As a TB warden Bona is always on lookout for coughs, rapid unexplained weight loss, and to respond when he heard people complaining about night sweats. That’s what TB Wardens do.

He has also learned that TB results in massive workplace and personal expenses when not handled properly. His employer G4S, has enabled Bona, the HR team and other colleagues to openly discuss and manage issues like sick leave needs for TB, HIV testing, confidentiality, family screening and returning to work.

So, Bona was well prepared and supported when he noticed a young man was not well, and asked him in for a chat. Bona was not going to fire the young man, but to execute the mission of B4H – ‘early TB case finding’.

When Bona’s colleague didn’t turn up to see him, Bona followed up. This is not the first person he has helped and now knows that people can be very afraid of being found to have TB. He engaged with his colleague’s father, and together they were able to get him to support him directly into one of the NCD’s free TB clinics.

At the clinic, he was asked for sputum sample for analysis in a new machine, known as the ‘Genexpert’. The Genexpert is used to test for the presence of TB, and if TB is found, whether or not it is a drug resistant form. After the test, it was confirmed that his colleague did in fact have TB, but not drug resistant TB. Bona’s colleague was then referred to Gerehu TB Clinic where Bona ensured he was registered for free treatment. Bona followed up regularly to check in on how his colleague was doing on treatment, and if he was getting enough support to continue taking his medicine. His Dad is taking the role of ‘treatment supporter’ and ensures he swallows his medication daily.

Unfortunately, because his colleague was found late, and had lost a lot of strength and fitness, he was off work for two months. Fortunately, immediately after starting treatment this young man started getting better.

“When signs and symptoms of TB are tested early, people may be able to return to work very quickly. When a person is known to have drug-susceptible TB, and is on the correct treatment, and has stopped coughing, they are no longer infectious and can return to work,” explains Catherine Ramoni, TB case support worker with Businesses for Health.

Bona checks in with Catherine at the B4H office regularly as he continues to support and identify cases of TB in his workplace and his family, knowing the TB testing clinics. Bona understands how to deal with people and comfort them, allowing them to trust him to help. To Businesses for Health he is a hero for his employer and community.

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