Program Aims to Stop Misdiagnosis, Late Treatment of Malaria

The man had been feverish for a week before he fell into a malarial coma and ended up in a district hospital in Battambang province, recalled Dr Phanata Yos, who now works in internal medicine at Naga Clinic.

By that time, “it was too late to save this man’s life,” the doctor said of the case that he encountered while working in Bavel town in 1997.

Like so many malaria cases that go untreated, the man died soon after he arrived at the district health center.

In an attempt to more clearly understand cases of misdiagnosis and late treatment, a National Malaria Center pilot project will begin next week, training 200

private medical practitioners

in three provinces and one municipality to collect data on diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of mala­ria cases, center adviser Seshu Babu said Wednes­day.

Following the training on proper diagnosis and treatment, the medics—in Kampot, Pursat and Stung Treng provinces and Pailin municipality and its surrounding areas—will collect data on the malaria cases they encounter for six months, he said.

“Then we have better control on the problem, and then we can plan for more appropriate control,” said Babu of the project, funded by a $79,000 grant from Germany’s development agency, GTZ.

Past studies have indicated that as few as 20 percent of Cambo­dia’s malaria patients go to government health centers, and many don’t go until it’s too late for treatment, Babu said.

That leaves eight out of 10 people who go untreated or seek treatment in “the private sector.” That can mean anything from a foreign-educated malaria specialist to a traditional healer to a pharmacist trained in only rudimentary first aid, he said.

“We still are not able to totally control the menace,” he said, citing gaps in information and failures in treatments outside of national guidelines. There are “all kind[s] of erratic treatment going on,” he said.

If the project is successful in collecting information, the malaria center will go to the Global Fund donors to ask for assistance to expand the program, Babu said.

Center doctors say they hope the project will give them a better understanding of the scope of the malaria problem and help medics better treat their patients.

Dr Houl Somuthol, training coordinator for the project, said training sessions will involve only simple malaria cases.

“We will train [the medics] to recognize the severe malaria case [and] to transport [patients] to the hospital,” he said.

In his work with the mala-

ria center, Houl Somuthol

said he’s seen many cases improperly treated by private practitioners.

“We want to make a good impact and help the private sector to follow the national protocol,” he said.

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