Activists and patients march on Gauteng health department demanding radiation treatment

Nearly R800-million set aside for radiation treatment outsourcing has not been spent

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Activists and patients marched on Tuesday in Johannesburg demanding radiation treatment for cancer. Photo: Silver Sibiya

  • Activists and patients marched to the Gauteng health department on Tuesday demanding that R784-million set aside for radiation treatment be used.
  • The money was ringfenced by the Gauteng treasury in March 2023 to outsource treatment.
  • This followed a request by Cancer Alliance and the Treatment Action Campaign who said Gauteng hospitals were not managing radiation treatment.
  • But a year later the money has not been spent, said the activists.

Activists and cancer patients marched to the offices of the Gauteng department of health on Tuesday demanding that millions of rands allocated for radiation treatment for cancer patients be used.

SECTION27, Cancer Alliance and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) called for the department to use R784-million set aside by the provincial treasury in March 2023 to outsource radiation treatment. They say not a single patient has received treatment through this intervention a year later.

In an open letter to health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko last week, Khanyisa Mapipa from SECTION27, Salomé Meyer from the Cancer Alliance and Ngqabutho Mpofu from TAC said that in March 2022, Cancer Alliance had compiled a detailed list of approximately 3,000 patients who were awaiting radiation oncology treatment.

They said there were shortages of staff in the two radiation oncology centres in Gauteng, Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Charlotte Maxeke Hospital had only two operational machines compared to seven in 2020. Tenders for new equipment had been delayed and the backlog of patients was increasing, they said.

As a result, SECTION27 and Cancer Alliance had asked the provincial treasury to set aside R784-million to outsource radiation treatment. The money had been allocated in March 2023, but a year later, no service provider had been appointed.

“It has actually been four years since the matter was brought to the Department of Health,” said Mapipa on Tuesday. She said cancer patients were not getting the treatment they needed.

“We as Cancer Alliance and SECTION27 ran to Gauteng Treasury to ask them to allocate these funds. Gauteng Treasury responded and they gave this money, but this money is still sitting.”

Cancer patient Thato Moncho was among those on the march. Photo: Silver Sibiya

Thato Moncho, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2020, is one of the patients on the waiting list. She said she had faced many delays in her treatment. “I’ve had three recurrences of cancer and I need to have radiation six weeks after my surgery, which they failed to give me. I have pleaded with the MEC of Health and the Chief Executive Officer at Charlotte Maxeke to speed up the process so I can get my radiation but they failed.”

“I’m pleading: help us so we can get radiation to live a normal life with our family.”

Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said the department had received the memorandum and would respond to it. He acknowledged that there had been delays which he said were caused by tender processes.

“It is in our interest to ensure that we get to address the backlog of those that require treatment, and the department will formally respond to the concerns that have been raised.” He said a tender had been awarded.

“In May the process to treat patients will start in both hospitals.”

“The respective heads of oncology in Charlotte Maxeke and Steve Biko hospitals are busy with that process of onboarding.”

TOPICS:  Gauteng's healthcare crisis Health

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