10 July 2012

Broken cancer machines cost lives

Broken radiation machines, as a result of poor hospital and provincial healthcare administration, have made receiving life-saving cancer treatment.


Broken radiation machines, as a result of poor hospital and provincial healthcare administration, have made receiving life-saving cancer treatment impossible to access for many South African cancer patients.

This is because suppliers of these specialised cancer machines have allegedly refused to fix them because the Gauteng Department of Health hasn’t paid outstanding supplier bills. 

One man's story

This situation, and continued administrative foul ups, has left Anthony Naledi in a dire position.

In September last year, Anthony was diagnosed with colon cancer and managed to secure an appointment for his radiation treatment. He lives in Vanderbijlpark, so he has to leave his home before sunrise in order to arrive on time for his treatments. 

On 2 March 2012, Charlotte Maxeke Hospital contacted him to confirm his appointment for 5 March. However, when he arrived at the hospital, he was informed that they had made a mistake and his appointment was actually on the 9that 7am. But when he returned on the 9th for his treatment, he was kept waiting until 2pm, only to be informed that the radiation machines were not working. 

His appointment was rescheduled and when he returned on the 12th, he was once again told that his appointment had been cancelled, but this time, indefinitely, as no one at the hospital was sure when the equipment would be repaired. 

Anthony’s cancer is treatable, but it needed to be treated promptly and in line with specific treatment guidelines and timeframes. Thankfully, with the help of Campaigning for Cancer, Anthony was finally able to receive his treatment.  

“Waiting months to obtain access to treatment is entirely unconstitutional. Waiting can be the difference between life and death for cancer patients,” says Dr Devan Moodley, Oncologist and Medical Director of Campaigning for Cancer. 

Matters were proceeding adequately until late June when Anthony was due to have his colostomy bag removed. The hospital admitted that it has now lost his file, and informed Anthony that they could not see him without it. He was promised that they would be in contact with him in two weeks’ time. That was a month ago.

“They told me that they would let me know in two weeks which would have been on the 20thof June 2012 about my appointment but I have not heard anything from the hospital about my next appointment,” Anthony says.

 Situation needs addressing

Campaigning for Cancer advocates the rights of individual patients first and foremost – ensuring that care is obtained when needed – but due to the increasing number of people who are now being affected by non-service delivery and barriers to treatment, more class-based action is required.

"The Gauteng Department of Health and the MEC are not taking responsibility. Why has this issue not been addressed? Is it a case of the MEC and her Department simply not caring?” says Lauren Pretorius, Campaigning for Cancer CEO.

In an effort to get Anthony the treatment he requires, Campaigning for Cancer has sent correspondence, to Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, but the National Department, too, is remaining mum on this point.  

“We really get treated badly because of the poor service we receive as state patients. This is putting my life at risk. I want to be here to see my grand children grow up. Not pass away because of a state hospital’s poor administration. When will the MEC sit up and take notice? Once someone has died?” Anthony points out. 

How many people are experiencing the same issue and not being treated? Campaigning for Cancer is calling for everyone who is suffering the same problem to come forward. “It is obviously going to take a mass group of cases to be reported before someone in the Gauteng Department of Health takes steps to rectify this issue.”

(Press Release, July 2012)

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