Waiting times for cancer treatment at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital have worsened over the last year, particularly for 400 prostate cancer patients who will wait as long as three years for treatment.
This information is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
Hodgkin’s, bladder, rectum/anus, and head and neck cancers will take about 6 weeks to be treated, gynecological cancer from three to four months, and prostate cancer between 10 months and three years.
The four Linear accelerator machines have all broken down at least once since January last year, one of the two Cobalt machines has been broken for three years and one of the two Simulators has not been working for two years.
There have also been shortages of 12 chemotherapy medicines, as well as morphine.
I am most concerned that 17 out of 67 posts in the Oncology department are vacant – 2 consultants, 5 registrars and 10 radiation therapists are needed.
According to Masuku, the machine breakdowns, medicine shortages and staff vacancies have led to delays in treatment.
Last year, the hospital’s CEO Gladys Bogoshi said that there were 300 prostate cancer patients who would wait two years for treatment, now it’s 400 prostate patients waiting for three years.
These delays cause much distress to patients and decreases their survival chances.
I am pleased that two new Linear Accelerator machines will be bought in November, but more needs to be done in appointing qualified staff and working extra hours to make up the huge backlog.