Durban - Oncology patients still lack access to adequate oncology services in KwaZulu-Natal, despite assertions by Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, that six machines would function in the province by January 2018.
Dhlomo stated at Pietermaritzburg's provincial consultative health forum on November 22, 2017 that it would be "a month or two" before the oncology machines were "up and running again".
The DA's KZN health spokesperson, Dr Imraan Keeka, said Dhlomo's promises were false.
"It is more than six months since the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) gave the KZN health department their binding recommendations to improve oncology services in the province. Yet, the waiting times are longer and the situation is worse," said Keeka.
The SAHRC report, which was made public in June 2017, slammed the KZN health department for failing to provide adequate oncology services.
It found that national and provincial health departments had "failed to take reasonable measures to progressively realise the right to have access to health care services in the KZN province".
Keeka added that radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital were still out of service.
"The machines at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital are working but cannot cope with the volume of patients and the added complication of a lack of doctors and staff in the oncology department," he added.
KZN Department of Health spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda, conceded that the department only had three functional radiotherapy machines in the province.
"Grey's Hospital has one, while IALCH has two."
She added that Addington Hospital had no oncology machines, but was planning to install two in the coming months.
"Both the installation of a new machine and the completion of repairs to a second machine at Addington are expected to be completed by April," she said.
Oncology staffing shortages
Keeka was also critical of severe oncology staff shortages throughout KZN.
"The current situation is that there are only two full-time oncologists in KZN and they are based at Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg".
Mafunda stressed that oncologists were scarce and that their training could only commence once more consultants become available to train registrars.
"The KZN health department has an arrangement with the Western Cape health department whereby three registrars will soon be assigned to accredited facilities in the Western Cape".
Of these three registrars, one is expected to write final exams in mid-2018.
"If all goes well, this person will return to KZN thereafter as a specialist oncologist," said Mafunda.
The SAHRC did not wish to comment further and said " the oncology matter is an ongoing investigation".