Cancer patients’ ghastly bus trips
Health department commits to probe the allegations
Patients, their families and concerned drivers have raised alarms bells about the long, gruelling trips that Mpumalanga patients have to make in state-provided mini-buses to receive cancer treatment at Gauteng’s big hospitals.
According to a driver, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, the mini-buses sometimes travel more than 200km just collecting patients from different pick-up points at local clinics and provincial hospitals.
“Just imagine all those kilometres patients are just still sitting there and remember we have not yet started the journey to Gauteng. Sometimes when we reach Gauteng, it is very late and the patients miss their appointments, and they will be obliged to go back without being attended to,” said the driver.
Xolile Ntshalintshali from Amsterdam in the Mpumalanga Highveld is worried that her father, who is suffering from cancer, might not live long given the straining monthly trips he has to make to receive treatment in Pretoria.
Xolile’s 74-year-old father, Paulos Ntshalintshali, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, is one of about 50 cancer patients undergoing monthly radiation therapy at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
“Since I started to accompany my father for his treatment, life has been hard. My father and I leave home in Amster
The mini-buses sometimes travel more than 200km to pick up patients
dam a day before to sleep in Piet Retief Hospital, where the bus will pick us up in the morning, at around 3am,” said the 31-year-old Xolile.
“We used to sleep at an old dilapidated and dirty hospital, which was bad for any human being. When the mini-bus arrives, it will drive from Piet Retief to collect other patients and then later our final stop is Ermelo. That’s when we start our journey to Pretoria.
“Some patients also suffer from other diseases just like my father. He has high blood pressure and sugar diabetes. Every time he comes from Pretoria, he is always in pain.
“Another painful thing is that when we return from Pretoria, we travel at night and the mini-bus dumps us at a local hospital, so some patients sleep on the hospital benches waiting to catch their transport home in the morning.”
“All we are asking for is that the government give us different vehicles that will take patients from the hospital and local clinics that serve as pick-up points. These include the Standerton Provincial Hospital and Amajuba Memorial Hospital in Volkrust. Then all patients can meet at Ermelo Hospital so that from there we go straight to Pretoria,” she said.
Xolile also bemoaned the fact that some of the drivers would even give lifts to pupils and people going to work.
When contacted for comment, Mpumalanga health department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule said: “We will investigate the allegations, including the issue that there are drivers who pick up hitchhikers while transporting patients. It is not a good thing to offer people a lift while you are transporting patients.
“Most of our cancer patients are treated in the province, only those who need special attention are transported to Gauteng.”
Lucy Bolona, the head of communication and marketing at Cancer Association of South Africa, said she was not aware of the Mpumalanga situation.
“It is outrageous and certainly not beneficial for cancer patients to travel under those conditions.
“Not only is their immune system being placed at risk, but the patients could also be exposed to Covid-19.”