The Western Cape health department says it is to take legal action to get three extreme drug-resistant TB patients back into a Cape Town hospital.
The patients absconded from the Brooklyn Chest Hospital, where they were in quarantine while they were being treated for the highly infectious form of the disease, and are living with their families.
Provincial health MEC Pierre Uys said in a statement on Wednesday that government had to intervene if people's actions posed a risk to their families and the community.
Up to now the department had tried to balance patients' individual rights with those of the public by implementing isolation wards and security arrangements "without turning the facility into a prison".
"Unfortunately there are individuals that despite knowing the risks refuse to adhere to treatment and think nothing of recklessly exposing their own families to their illness.
"Consequently, I instructed my department to prepare for legal proceedings to bring these patients back to Brooklyn Chest hospital where they can be treated under proper medical supervision.
"We will move with this as a matter of urgency."
Uys said a new perimeter fence was being installed at the hospital, and in the meantime security along the existing fence would be improved.
The area next to the XDR-TB wards would be fenced off and security at the hospital entrance and on the grounds would be upgraded with a focus on monitoring the movements of XDR-TB patients.
Members of the public who had come into contact with the absconded patients would be monitored.
A total of 56 people in the Western Cape have so far been identified as having XDR-TB. Twelve of them have died. – (Sapa)
Quarantine urged for XDR TB