Surgical backlogs at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg have mounted substantially to up to five years, while at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, radiation treatment of 935 cancer patients has been stalled.
Machinery breakdowns and staff shortages are cited as reasons for a dramatic increase in the backlog for patients requiring surgery at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital‚ which is up to five years for a hip operation, reports The Times. Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa has disclosed that 11‚736 patients are waiting for operations at the top state hospital.
The report says this information was disclosed in an oral reply to questions by the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom at a sitting of the Gauteng Legislature. Ramokgopa also said that 1‚824 operations had been cancelled for various reasons at the hospital last year.
Bloom said: “The number has increased dramatically in the last two years as 4‚846 patients were waiting for surgery at the hospital in 2015‚ according to a previous reply to my questions in the Legislature. Part of the problem is the high number of cancelled operations due to machinery breakdowns and staff shortages. The surgery backlog should never have been allowed to grow so high at this hospital. Patients suffer when they have to wait so long for surgery. It is inhuman to ask people to wait five years for a hip operation.”
The report says Bloom called for special measures to be introduced to cut the surgery waiting lists‚ including extended operating hours and a partnership with the private health sector.
Meanwhile, 934 cancer patients are waiting for radiation treatment at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, with delays caused by broken machinery earlier this year and a shortage of radiographers. Bloom noted in a statement on the Politicsweb site: “This was disclosed on my (recent) visit to the hospital with my colleague Dr Neil Campbell MPL. We wanted to assess conditions at the cancer unit and were escorted by acting hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula.
“In February and March this year two of the four radiation machines could not be used because broken air-conditioning led to dangerous over-heating. We were assured that the air-conditioning has been fixed and all the radiation machines can now be used, but a backlog has developed because of the down-time.
“Another problem is that there are only 20 radiographers but 31 are ideally required to make best use of the machines. Ten radiographers have left in the last year, and only 8 radiographers have been recruited to replace them.
“Patients currently wait about one month to see a doctor, and will receive radiation treatment two months after being scanned. This three-month delay decreases the survival chances of cancer patients.
“Staff told us that there has been a sharp increase in cancer cases, many coming from other provinces and a significant number from other countries. The most common cancers are breast, cervical, head and neck, and prostate.
“I am concerned that there is a large backlog of cancer cases which is worsened by the shortage of radiographers. More radiographers should be recruited urgently and private hospitals should be contracted to cut the backlog.