KZN Health claims cancer treatment crisis ‘has been dealt with’

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The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has declared that the crisis in cancer treatment, which had plagued the province, has come to an end. The Mercury quotes both the KZN MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and the national Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, as saying that the crisis, which led to extended waiting periods for treatment for seriously ill patients, had been dealt with. It was previously reported that cancer patients were put on waiting lists for months due to broken machines and a shortage of oncologists.

The report says Motsoaledi and Dhlomo addressed the launch of the national cancer awareness campaign in Pietermaritzburg, where more than 1,000 people were tested for cervical and prostate cancer. “The problem was not in all of KwaZulu-Natal, it was in Durban,” said Dhlomo. “In Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, we had a problem of doctors leaving. It was at Addington Hospital where the situation was much more dire, as we had machines breaking and oncologists leaving.” He said the situation had improved as the machines at Addington were working and two oncologists had been employed.

“We are also waiting for another oncologist who just graduated in the Free State and will soon be joining the hospital. The waiting period for patients has now been reduced from a few months to just three weeks for adult patients, and there is no waiting period for children,” said Dhlomo.

Motsoaledi said Gauteng and KZN treated the most patients and KZN was the second-most capacitated province in terms of provision of the high-power linear accelerator machines, which are used to treat advanced cancer. He is quoted as saying a single machine can cost up to R40m and KZN had about seven of these.

He said the government is taking the fight against cancer seriously as the disease was “exploding” in the country and around the world. Motsoaledi said the government had negotiated with the company manufacturing the Herceptin injection, used to fight breast cancer, to reduce the cost of the injection from R24,000 to R6,000 for patients at public hospitals. Patients need about 17 injections.

The Mercury report (subscription needed)

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