Broken cancer machines could cause treatment delays at Johannesburg hospital

Concerns have been raised that the breakdown of machines used in radiotherapy to treat cancer and tumours at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital may delay the treatment of cancer patients.

Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa has confirmed that five machines used in the treatment of cancer have broken down since January last year at the hospital.

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DA member of the provincial legislature Jack Bloom voiced concern that the breakdowns had led to extended waiting times for cancer patients in need of treatment.

"I have received complaints from cancer patients about delays in treatment, but Ramokgopa ducked my question on waiting lists and waiting times by saying that it 'varies from month to month'," he said.

"It is unacceptable to give such a vague answer, which I suspect is because long waiting times are worsening the survival prospects of cancer patients."

Equipment replacement plan over 10 to 20 years

Ramokgopa brushed off these concerns and explained that all cancer treatment services at tertiary hospitals in Gauteng were available.

"We are working closely with the facilities management unit and original manufacturer. Remember, these machines are almost at the end of their lifetime and due to the high volume of patients the parts are worn out," Ramokgopa told News24.

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In a written reply to the Gauteng legislature, Ramokgopa said that three linear accelerator machines had broken down. Two were fixed, while the third was condemned for replacement, she said.

A cobalt machine failed but is now functional. However, an orthovoltage machine that broke is not due for replacement until 2025.

An equipment replacement plan has been developed and old machines will be replaced over a period of 10 to 20 years.

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