HOSPERSA DEMANDS KZN CANCER CRISIS ACTION
9 May 2017
The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) demands a conclusive report on the cancer crisis in KwaZulu Natal (KZN). The Union also demands that the KZN Department of Health (DoH) provides the full facts surrounding the non-maintenance of radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital, which has compromised the lives of cancer patients as far back as 2009.
According to recent reports, another family has lost a loved one due to the non-functional cancer treatment equipment in KZN. It is reported that a Pietermaritzburg woman who was diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer in February 2016, lost her battle with the illness two weeks ago while waiting for radiation treatment. Reports have pointed to the non-functional radiation machines as the biggest contributor to the untimely death where the patient was sent from pillar to post and given long waiting times for treatment after being diagnosed.
“Hospersa condemns the Department’s poor handling of the cancer crisis in KZN,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines. “This crisis started in 2009 when the DoH got caught up in a multi-million rand corruption scandal involving the maintenance contract of radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital. While the machines remain idling, patients bear the brunt with unnecessary suffering and sometimes untimely deaths,” added Desfontaines.
In 2013, Hospersa staged a picket outside Addington Hospital and handed a Memorandum to the KZN Department of Health. In the Memorandum the Union demanded the full facts surrounding the Addington Hospital radiotherapy debacle, including what led to the Rapid Arc machines being switched off as well as the exact nature of the impasse between the KZN government and maintenance service provider Tecmed.
KZN Health spokesperson, Sam Mkhwanazi has recently been quoted as saying that the issue of maintenance contracts for health technology equipment is currently under investigation. He also admitted to the exodus of health professionals from the public sector opting to join the private sector. In his statement, he said that the DoH will look to refer some patients requiring oncology treatment to private health facilities to mitigate backlogs.
“The switch-off at Addington Hospital has had devastating results leading to the loss of human lives,” argued Desfontaines. “Poor management and the alleged corruption are to blame where two state of the art machines at Addington Hospital are left neglected. Since the picket at Addington Hospital, the DoH has done nothing to address the maintenance issues of the radiotherapy machines at the hospital,” said Desfontaines.
It is further reported that an estimated 50% of cancer patients in KZN require radiotherapy but the DoH has been unable to provide the treatment due to broken equipment. This has led to some of the patients’ conditions to worsen from being treatable to terminal.
“This is totally unacceptable and we can no longer allow the DoH to continue as if it is business as usual,” said Desfontaines. “Hospersa has been vocal about this matter for almost ten years with DoH ignoring all our calls to address the crisis. Instead we are seeing a deteriorating state of affairs where patients are made to wait for months to receive treatment, skilled Oncologists resigning due to poor working conditions and corruption reigning supreme at the expense of the ill,” added Desfontaines.
“We demand a conclusive report on the corruption that took place at Addington Hospital which is at the centre of this debacle as well as plan of action to alleviate the unnecesary loss of lives,” said Desfontaines. “The DoH has had ample time to conclude its investigation which dates back to 2009. The guilty officials must be brought to book for not just corruption, but for human rights violation as well,” argued Desfontaines.
“The MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, needs to account for the slow pace his administration has taken in addressing the cancer crisis at the province,” said Desfontaines. “By not addressing the cancer crisis in the province, the MEC is depriving cancer patients a fighting chance to live,” concluded Desfontaines.
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For interviews please contact Hospersa Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines on 083-321-4427.
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