Twelve tuberculosis patients have run away from the Jose Pearson TB hospital in Port Elizabeth, up from the initial six thought to have absconded, the Eastern Cape department of health said on Friday.
"Three of the escaped patients have the extreme drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR) and nine have the Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR)," the department said.
Police have been dispatched to look for them.
Security beefed up
According to the department of health 10 more security guards have been added to the Jose Pearson TB hospital and the Fort Grey hospital in East London after protests by patients wanting to leave the facility.
It was reported on Thursday that six tuberculosis patients were on the run after they overpowered security guards and ran away.
Kupelo said several other TB patients went on a hunger strike, but later started eating.
"The patients' demands were unreasonable as they wanted to be allowed to go out and do shopping," he said.
The strain of Tuberculosis they have is highly contagious, so they have been hospitalised to reduce passing the disease to families and friends, and, because that strain is resistant to most drugs, to ensure a recovery and to stop the spread of the disease, doctors want to make sure they complete their course of medication.
Not a prison
Kupelo said the health department was not running a prison facility, but a health facility.
"These people are being kept at the facility as patients and not as prisoners."
The Jose Pearson hospital has about 300 TB patients and the Fort Grey hospital houses about 150.
Patients run away from the hospitals regularly, mostly to visit families or partners.
The department of health then has to trace the people they came into contact with to see if they too need treatment.
Television sets, pool tables and other entertainment facilities have been provided in an effort to prevent further runaways.
Appeal for return
The health department is appealing to the patients to return to the hospital as they are too sick to be out in public.
"They have to understand that they are being kept at the hospital because their condition dictates that. They have to take their medication." – (Sapa)
Six TB patients on the run