Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

Cancer patients’ lives are at risk because of broken equipment and staff shortages in the cancer departments of Gauteng hospitals.

This is revealed in a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Ntombe Mekgwe to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

The worst waiting lists and waiting times for cancer treatment are at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. There are 3500 patients annually on the waiting list there for curative palliative treatments, and they will wait between four and five months for treatment of head, neck and prostate cancer.

At the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, 200 to 300 patients wait for three months for radiation treatment.

According to Mekgwe: “delays in treatment are detrimental to the prognosis of patients”.

There have been many equipment breakdowns.

At Steve Biko Hospital:

“Radiotherapy machines and CT scanner out of order for about 2 – 3 months … Brachytherapy out of order since September – December 2011 and radiation sources not replaced resulting in delayed treatment. Four linear accelerators broke down in February 2011 and two repaired in mid-March 2012. Planner printer replaced just under 13 months and two CY scanners were out of order in the first two weeks of March 2012, fortunately the hospital managed to repair one.”

At Charlottee Maxeke Hospital:

“One Linear accelerator did not work from April 2011 to September 2011 due to non-payments. One linear accelerator did not work from 9th to 16th March 2012. ICOBALT machines have not been functioning optimally since November 2011”.

Another problem has been “intermittent shortages of certain chemotherapy drugs and pain medication.”

A vast number of staff posts need to be created to ensure quality cancer treatment. At Steve Biko Hospital, 81 Registered Nurses, 20 Staff Nurses, 5 Radiation Therapists and 3 Radiation Therapists are needed.

At Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital they need 40 more Professional Nurses, 15 Staff Nurses and 36 enrolled nursing auxiliaries.

It is clear that there is a cancer treatment crisis in Gauteng. New equipment and more qualified staff are desperately needed.

While much good work is being done, many cancer patients are denied speedy treatment to cure their illness.

Cancer departments at Gauteng hospitals work under considerable strain and need to be rescued by extra resources from the national treasury, particularly since they also treat cancer patients from Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and Free State.

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