ONCOLOGY SERVICES ON THE RIGHT TRACK
The Free State Department of Oncology is celebrating 51 years of providing quality care to the most vulnerable people in our society. There are various units within the Oncology Basket of Services such as the clinics, the Research Unit, Radiation Unit and the Chemotherapy Unit which serves more than 170 patients daily.
The radiation treatment of cancer is provided to patients from various towns of the Free State Province, as well as parts of the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Lesotho. The service also has dedicated outreach in outlying health facilities such as Bongani Hospital in Welkom, Boitumelo Hospital in Kroonstad and Dihlabeng Hospital in Bethlehem every month.
The Oncology Services in the Free State Province are centralised at the Universitas Academic Hospital, while the actual services are physically located at National Hospital because, due to its delicate nature and sensitivity, the radiation infrastructure cannot be moved to any other site.
The Oncology Services are responsive to a relatively high burden of diseases in the various categories of cancers, including:
• Cervical cancer for women (about 400 cases per year) • Breast cancer (350 cases per year)
• Head and neck cancers (about 100 cases per year) • Prostate cancers (approximately 250 new patients
The province services a catchment population of about 7 million patients and it requires infrastructure and equipment in order to respond adequately.
Oncology Services are well-developed to make accurate diagnoses and prognoses like the Nuclear Medicine section and the hyperbaric chamber (oxygen tank) which is the only one of its kind in central South Africa.
The hyperbaric chamber is used to treat a variety of conditions, for example: radiation- induced proctitis (an inflammation of the lining of the rectum), wound sepsis and osteoradionecrosis (a condition of nonvital bone in a site of radiation injury), with high-pressure oxygen.
Patients also have the pleasure of enjoying an in-house chapel as for some of them being at Oncology represents the possibility of end of life.
Social Work Services are also provided within the unit, which assists with counselling through development assessment, rendering support services and linking patients to other relevant stakeholders such as NGOs.
The Free State Oncology Services attributes its successes to a number of factors such as:
• Dedicated staff that work as a team
• Increased community awareness for patients to test and seek early treatment for cancer
• A clean environment that provides hope for patients
The Free State Department of Health is acutely aware of the pressure under which the Oncology Services are provided and the need to maintain the high performance of the current service provision environment. There is a dire need for procurement and maintenance of equipment and machinery such as Linear Accelerators, the recruitment of more staff and the training of more oncologists, as well as increased levels of public education and awareness to achieve the goals of early detection and treatment.
To access Oncology Services, please visit your nearest health clinic, doctor or health facility in order for tests to be conducted and referral to be facilitated to the Provincial Oncology Services for treatment.