KZN cancer crisis: Patients wait months for treatment

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. (Themba Mngomezulu, Gallo Images)
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. (Themba Mngomezulu, Gallo Images)

Durban - More than 150 cancer patients are currently awaiting treatment in KwaZulu-Natal's public health facilities - some for up to eight months, the KwaZulu-Natal department of health revealed as part of its response to The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

However, while outlining solutions to the cancer crisis, the department has not provided timeframes for the implementation of these - a concern raised by the SAHRC, which is currently considering the department's response.

This comes in the wake of a damning finding by the SAHRC which ruled that the department and its MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, violated the rights of cancer patients by not providing them with adequate cancer treatment services.

In its response to the commission, the department said it would comply with the commission's requests to assess the state of its radiotherapy machines and take steps to recruit oncologists to work in its facilities.

However, it stopped short of outlining when it would do so.

READ: KZN department needs R1bn more

Crisis

The commission's report has called for the immediate repair of the machines and a strategy to address the crisis.

"The department has responded with their list of patients awaiting treatment which includes 18 patients at Addington Hospital and 161 patients at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, with 60 patients waiting up to eight months, another 86 up to four months and 15 patients waiting up to six months," said SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks.

However, he added the department was unable to furnish the commission with details on patients who died as a result of cancer.

Instead, the department referred the commission to the National Cancer Register.

Cancer treatment at state facilities has been plunged into a crisis situation in the province amid the exodus of oncologists at public hospitals, many of whom have cited overworked conditions, lack of resources and poor leadership at the department of health in KZN.

Despite growing calls from opposition parties and several unions for his removal, Dhlomo has not accepted blame for the crisis. Instead, he has pointed to processes, officials and suppliers for the crisis.

The ANC's political leadership has also closed ranks around him, with Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and KZN Premier Willies Mchunu insisting he was not to blame for the crisis.

The SAHRC says it awaits the department and the MEC's response to its further 30 day deadline on July 28 before considering any further action.

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