Long delays for cancer patients in Gauteng

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

The survival chances of many cancer patients at Gauteng hospitals are decreased because of long waiting times for treatment, as well as medicine shortages and frequent machine breakdowns.

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

Full-line cancer treatment in Gauteng is provided at the Steve Biko Academic hospital and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospitals, and there is a limited service at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.

At the Steve Biko hospital, adult patients will wait about three months for radiation treatment. According to Papo “the demand far outweighs the capacity. There are about 200 -300 patients on the waiting list dating back to 2012. The hospital receives 30-40 referrals per week which further increases the backlog.”

Waiting times for radiation at Charlotte Maxeke is between 30 and 60 days.

Frequent machinery breakdowns have worsened the situation.

At Steve Biko hospital, linear accelerators and CT scanners were down for a total of 93 days this year.

At Charlotte Maxeke hospital, one Brachytherapy machine broke down in January this year, three linear accelerators broke in February, and two cobalt accelerators broke in June.

Medical Oncology Departments suffered from “intermittent shortages of certain chemotherapeutic drugs as well as pain medication”.

Staff shortages are severe. Charlotte Maxeke needs 44 Radiation therapists, and 164 more posts are needed at the Steve Biko cancer department.

There is a cancer treatment crisis in Gauteng that needs urgent attention.

National Treasury should provide extra funds, particularly because Gauteng hospitals also treat cancer patients from Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and Free State.