KZN oncology services raise red flags

2016-03-09 11:39
Sibongiseni Dhlomo (Picture: The Witness)

Sibongiseni Dhlomo (Picture: The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Tuesday acknowledged that there has not been a well co-ordinated oncology service in the province.

Dhlomo’s admission comes more than three years after the province’s state hospitals started experiencing backlogs in the treatment of cancer patients.

Patients diagnosed with cancer had complained of having to wait for far too long for treatment due to the lack of working radiology machines and CT scanners.

Problems with the machines started in January 2013 when the Department of Health cancelled a contract with a service provider.

Speaking during the health portfolio committee meeting yesterday at the KZN legislature, Dhlomo said he had agreed with the head of department to start a team that will handle oncology services.

Part of the reason for the backlog in the cancer treatment is the high volume of patients requiring the service, which leads to machines breaking down frequently, Dhlomo said.

The province was dealing with a larger pool of patients as it has to cater for people coming from Swaziland and Eastern Cape as well, he said.

“When these machines break, we have no luxury of time to repair them. Repairing a machine of that magnitude is not like going down the street and getting a pin there,” he said.

Dhlomo said some of the parts had to be imported from abroad, which led to logistical delays.

Dhlomo said lack of staff training also contributed to machines breaking down frequently.

He did not elaborate on why staff were inadequately trained to operate the machines.

Although Dhlomo admitted the shortcomings in the programme, he said the backlog had been “sensationalised”.

“Not all patients who have cancer, must necessarily get radiotherapy.

“This story of saying ‘there is not enough machines, I am going to die’ is a fallacy. Patients can still do well under chemotherapy,” he said.


FORENSIC investigations of ghost employees, outsourcing of disciplinary cases and higher-than-expected statutory audit fees led to the provincial Health Department overspending on its administration budget.

Tabling the third quarter budget yesterday, chief financial officer Sihle Mkhize projected the department would overspend its administration budget by R115,1 million by the end of the fourth quarter. The department indicated that 94,9 % of that budget had already been spent.

By the end of the financial year the department would also have overspent on its central hospital services by R105,3 million, district health care services by R95,1 million while health care support services will be at R28 million over budget.

However, Mkhize said he was confident that the department would not overspend its entire budget by the end of the current financial year.

“Currently we have overspent our budget by one percent,” he said.

The department has projected an underspend of R68,7 million in machinery and equipment and had only spent 53,6% of its annual budgeted NHI grant. — Witness Reporter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health

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