Thousands of vulnerable patients’ lives could be at risk as an embattled KwaZulu-Natal Health faces yet another critical shortage, this time of urologists.
The Times reports that already plagued by a shortage of cancer specialists‚ the department now faces a “urology crisis” that threatens to leave thousands untreated. There are‚ according to the South African Medical Association (SAMA)‚ currently just three urology specialists responsible for thousands of people.
SAMA provincial chair Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa said: “This is not something that is looming. Right now we have a patient backlog stretching back years. This is a crisis. Some patients have not been seen since 2015.” The report says this latest revelation comes on the back of an exodus of oncologists from the public health service and damning South African Human Rights Commission findings about inoperative cancer treatment machines at two flagship KZN hospitals.
According to the report, it was reported last month that the exodus meant there were no cancer specialists left in Durban‚ and just two left in the province – a shocking development that left hundreds‚ if not thousands‚ of cancer patients facing clinical uncertainty and staring the possibility of death square in the face. Mzukwa said: “We are looking at the same issue as in the oncology sector. Those guys (the remaining urology doctors) are exhausted and they could leave at any time.”
The Democratic Alliance said that the KZN healthcare system was bordering on collapse‚ and called for the immediate removal of MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo. SAMA echoed this‚ saying that the department had been disingenuous about the actual number of urologists in service.
DA health spokesperson Imran Keeka pointed to critical equipment and staff challenges. He said only one urologist was based in Durban who served the southern area of the province and another in Pietermaritzburg‚ who served the northern reaches.
“The urology unit at Newcastle’s Madadeni Hospital is no longer functional and is under the supervision of a single senior doctor trying to do the work of specialists‚” he claimed. “The impact of not having urologists is that patients with cancers of the urinary tract‚ which includes the kidneys‚ the bladder‚ the external genitalia and the prostate in males‚ in certain circumstances have to be attended to by doctors who are not specialised in this field. This increases the risk to the department for medico-legal claims.”
Keeka said that Dhlomo and his department had “failed the people of KZN”. “There appears to be no end in sight to the suffering of citizens reliant on public healthcare as the DA continues to hear of cases where patients are being told to wait – in some instances for years – for treatment‚” he said.
The report says in response to the DA’s claims‚ the department said that there were seven urologists employed across the province. But Mzukwa said this was untrue. According to him‚ there were three permanently employed urologists – at most – in the province. “They (the health department) are saying they have seven urologists in service‚ but they are not telling the truth. A lot of their numbers are sessional doctors who work hours in government hospitals. They are just stepping in from the private sector and then they leave again‚” he said.
Department spokesperson Desmond Motha dismissed Keeka’s claims as political grandstanding‚ saying that seven urologists staffed hospitals around the province. “As pertaining to the call for MEC Dhlomo to resign‚ Dr Keeka is a politician belonging to an opposition party and can thus not be stopped from embarking on such politics‚” he said.
The report says this latest development comes in the wake of a 68-page SAHRC report into the oncology crisis. Released last month‚ the report found that “the delays in the provision of‚ and in some cases the denial of‚ oncology services to cancer patients‚ some of whom are destitute and in need of health care‚ affects them in a most fundamental way”.
“It poses a serious threat to the patients’ lives and the enjoyment of other rights. It cannot be denied that the rights to life and human dignity‚ which are intertwined in our constitution are intertwined in this matter.”
The report says KZN Premier Willies Mchunu came out in defence of Dhlomo who‚ he said‚ had not failed to execute his duties.The Times report