KZN hospi­tals on­col­ogy ‘cri­sis’

Health Depart­ment says one chemo drug is in short sup­ply but 29 other drugs are avail­able

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ADDINGTON Hos­pi­tal’s chemo­ther­apy treat­ment ser­vices came to a halt for many can­cer pa­tients last week and only lim­ited ser­vices were be­ing of­fered at Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal (IALCH) due to a re­port­edly crit­i­cal drug short­age, says DA KZN Health spokesper­son Dr Im­ran Keeka.

He said he had re­ceived re­li­able in­for­ma­tion that chemo­ther­apy treat­ment ser­vices at both hospi­tals had been se­verely im­pacted by a short­age of sev­eral chemo­ther­apy drugs last week. He said the hospi­tals had re­ceived some stock early this week and the sit­u­a­tion had im­proved.

But the KZN Depart­ment of Health said the DA’s claim of a cri­sis was an “elec­tion­eer­ing strat­egy” that stemmed from a tem­po­rary short­age of just one chemo­ther­apy drug which was cur­rently be­ing sourced.

Keeka also al­leged that there was no ra­di­ol­o­gist at Addington to re­port on stag­ing CT scans and in­ves­ti­ga­tions for can­cer pa­tients, and that these ser­vices had to be re­quested from other fa­cil­i­ties.

“New pa­tients are also hav­ing to wait for as long as six months for ra­di­a­tion treat­ment, with clinic book­ings only be­ing made for Fe­bru­ary next year. This is then fol­lowed by a wait of an­other month for a scan and then yet an­other month, at least, be­fore treat­ment be­gins,” Keeka said.

The sit­u­a­tion had wors­ened af­ter one of the three doc­tors de­ployed from the Wits Health Con­sor­tium to help ad­dress the on­col­ogy cri­sis in the prov­ince left IALCH at the end of Oc­to­ber, he said.

“The DA has also been in­formed that only the head of on­col­ogy at this hos­pi­tal is cur­rently regis­tered as a spe­cial­ist. This means the other doc­tors may not prac­tise as spe­cial­ists un­til they have com­pleted their other spe­cial­ist qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments.”

Some of the drugs that were not avail­able, which re­sulted in treat­ment com­ing to a halt for some pa­tients last week, were Etopo­side, a drug used to treat a va­ri­ety of can­cers, and Pa­cli­taxel, which is used with Her­ceptin to treat breast can­cer and other can­cers. He said the hospi­tals also had lim­ited stock of the other Tex­ane group of drugs, which forms part of the regimen for var­i­ous can­cers.

Keeka said the DA would again ap­proach the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and write to Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi, who re­cently com­mented that the on­col­ogy cri­sis was over.

“Clearly he is not fully ap­praised of the sit­u­a­tion in KZN,” Keeka said.

An on­col­ogy pa­tient, who spoke to The Mer­cury on con­di­tion of anonymity, said that a few weeks ago he had been ad­vised that there was no stock of his oral on­col­ogy med­i­ca­tion, but he had re­turned the next week to col­lect it.

In its re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions, the Health Depart­ment said the DA’s claims aimed to dis­credit its ef­forts that had re­sulted in “sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to the pro­vi­sion of can­cer treat­ment ser­vices in the prov­ince”.

“Chemo­ther­apy has not been stopped at any KZN pub­lic hos­pi­tal. All the hospi­tals that ren­der chemo­ther­apy are pro­vid­ing the treat­ment,” the depart­ment said.

The claims of a cri­sis were “ex­ag­ger­ated” and had stemmed from “the tem­po­rary short sup­ply of one crit­i­cal drug”, Pa­cli­taxel, which the con­tracted sup­plier had not been able to sup­ply in terms of its con­tract.

The depart­ment said it was work­ing on find­ing al­ter­na­tive sup­pli­ers.

At least 29 chemo­ther­apy drugs were avail­able and its in­ter­ven­tions had re­sulted in “vastly re­duced wait­ing times and a smaller back­log” for pa­tients need­ing treat­ment for ad­vanced can­cer, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment.

It said 205 pa­tients had been booked into the ra­dio­ther­apy clinic at Addington Hos­pi­tal; 153 booked into IALCH; and 196 into Grey’s Hos­pi­tal be­tween Au­gust 6 and De­cem­ber 3.

“In­ter­ven­tions by the KZN Depart­ment of Health have en­sured that there are seven fully func­tional lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tors in the prov­ince. Three of these are at Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal, two at Addington Hos­pi­tal, and one at Grey’s Hos­pi­tal, where there are no sig­nif­i­cant wait­ing times for treat­ment.

“The sev­enth ma­chine is used as part of a Pub­lic-Pri­vate Part­ner­ship at Queen Nandi and Ng­welezana Hos­pi­tal com­plex. Cur­rently, there is no (ex­tended) wait­ing time to see an on­col­o­gist at this com­plex,” the depart­ment said. It had con­tracted three on­col­o­gists from the Wits Health Con­sor­tium.

“The wait­ing pe­riod to see an on­col­o­gist for the first time at ALCH and Addington Hos­pi­tal ranges from three-four weeks to eight weeks, de­pend­ing on the type of re­quired ser­vice. There are no wait­ing times for chil­dren,” the depart­ment said.

HEALTH MEC Dr Si­bongiseni Dhlomo and hos­pi­tal chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Than­deka Khany­ile with one of the new on­col­ogy ma­chines at Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Hos­pi­tal ear­lier this year. | African News Agency (ANA) Ar­chive

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