Govt should build more can­cer treat­ment cen­tres

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

THE can­cer treat­ment cen­tre at Mpilo Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal nearly be­came an­other Ekusileni Med­i­cal Cen­tre, Bu­l­awayo’s big­gest white ele­phant that hasn’t worked since it was built in 2000.

It is painful to see an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece such as Ekusileni ly­ing idle as it has over the past 16 years. The pain is not only with re­gards to its beauty phys­i­cally, but the crit­i­cal­ity of the ser­vice it is meant pro­vide. Ekusileni Med­i­cal Cen­tre, a brain­child of the late Vice-Pres­i­dent Joshua Nkomo was de­signed to pro­vide spe­cial­ist med­i­cal ser­vices near the peo­ple and at af­ford­able charge. In­stead of pa­tients in­cur­ring huge costs trav­el­ling to Harare or to South Africa to be treated for var­i­ous com­plex con­di­tions, the late vi­sion­ary wanted them to get the ser­vice here in Bu­l­awayo. We re­gret that his vi­sion re­mains a mi­rage. We nearly had our sec­ond health sec­tor white ele­phant at Mpilo Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal whose can­cer treat­ment cen­tre had not worked since it was built and equipped four years ago. As it lay idle many can­cer pa­tients were be­ing forced to travel to Harare weekly to be treated. This is costly if we con­sider the money one has to pay to go to the cap­i­tal weekly for treat­ment. It is more costly if we con­sider the time one has to spend trav­el­ling back and forth.

It is sad to say that some can­cer pa­tients may have found these ex­penses too much and suf­fered in their penury, some ac­tu­ally los­ing their lives.

Next month the can­cer treat­ment cen­tre at Mpilo Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal will start op­er­at­ing, giv­ing hope to pa­tients from Mata­bele­land provinces who have suf­fered with­out such a fa­cil­ity nearby.

A can­cer com­puted to­mog­ra­phy (CT) scan and a can­cer treat­ment ma­chine have been in­stalled at the hos­pi­tal’s ra­dio­ther­apy cen­tre.

With the ma­chin­ery hav­ing been in­stalled, the hos­pi­tal is await­ing a li­cence from the Ra­di­a­tion Pro­tec­tion Author­ity of Zimbabwe for the cen­tre to start op­er­at­ing. The li­cence that the hos­pi­tal is wait­ing for is an im­por­tant one with­out which any med­i­cal fa­cil­ity geared to­wards treat­ing can­cer can­not legally op­er­ate. How­ever, we have no doubt that the li­cence will be granted thus can con­fi­dently state that the cen­tre would be op­er­a­tional come De­cem­ber.

Mr Leonard Mab­handi, the newly ap­pointed chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer for Mpilo Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal must be com­mended for work­ing to en­sure that the can­cer treat­ment fa­cil­ity be­gins op­er­at­ing. This must rank as one of his big­gest, if not big­gest, achieve­ment since he was re­cently con­firmed in that top po­si­tion at Mpilo.

In­deed he has a lot of work to do at the hos­pi­tal, to clean up the rot that nearly brought it down. Cor­rup­tion was en­demic at the hos­pi­tal dur­ing the ten­ure of Dr Lawrence Man­tiz­iba as chief ex­ec­u­tive. Large sums of money were lost to a few thiev­ing ex­ec­u­tives who were later sacked. With so much ef­fort in lin­ing up their pock­ets, we doubt that the old or­der saw the can­cer treat­ment cen­tre, or gen­eral ser­vice de­liv­ery as im­por­tant at Mpilo.

Apart from the new chief ex­ec­u­tive, the lo­cal po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship must be com­mended also for put­ting pres­sure on the au­thor­i­ties to get the can­cer treat­ment cen­tre on­line.

One of the politi­cians, former Deputy Speaker of the Se­nate, Cde Nai­son Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu, a prostate can­cer pa­tient, spoke in an in­ter­view with this paper last week on Wed­nes­day, of the frus­tra­tion of hav­ing to travel fre­quently to Harare for treat­ment yet Mpilo is equipped for the same ser­vice.

“The late VP (John) Nkomo had can­cer and had to go to Cape Town when we had qual­i­fied doc­tors here with ma­chin­ery. Now that the ma­chines have been in­stalled, the peo­ple from Vic­to­ria Falls, Beit­bridge, and Gwanda will all come here for treat­ment and save costs. We are like smart tod­dlers here in Bu­l­awayo be­cause we do not cry in fear of both­er­ing those in lead­er­ship. We had ma­chines but we never ques­tioned why they were not be­ing in­stalled,” he said. We thank Cde Ndlovu for the ef­fort. Hav­ing said that, we must high­light the tra­di­tional chal­lenge that can­cer pa­tients have had to con­tend with the high costs in­volved in ac­cess­ing treat­ment.

Statis­tics made avail­able a few months ago in­di­cate that ra­dio­ther­apy in the pri­vate sec­tor costs be­tween $3 000 and $4 000 for an en­tire course, while chemo­ther­apy ses­sions cost be­tween $100 and $1 000 per cy­cle, de­pend­ing on the stage which the can­cer has reached. Not many can­cer pa­tients can af­ford this. Can­cer has be­come the big­gest killer dis­ease in the coun­try in re­cent years, chiefly be­cause of the as­tro­nom­i­cal costs a pa­tient must bear to be treated. It is also to do with late di­ag­no­sis and lack of spe­cial­ist med­i­cal ser­vices. Of­ten the con­di­tion is de­tected late when the can­cer has pro­gressed so far that med­i­cal treat­ment can­not curb it. Can­cers have over­taken HIV and Aids as the big­gest killer in the coun­try, hav­ing ac­counted for 10 per­cent of the 138 000 deaths caused by non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases in 2014.

This is why we want the can­cer treat­ment cen­tre at Mpilo to be op­er­a­tional. It is one of the only two fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try that of­fer free can­cer treat­ment. Given the high costs that pri­vate hos­pi­tals charge, we urge the Gov­ern­ment to build more cen­tres apart from the Mpilo one and the one at Harare’s Parireny­atwa Hos­pi­tal. These two can­not ad­e­quately serve the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the var­i­ous can­cers that are com­ing up.

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