A representative of the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was present at a media briefing hosted by the provincial Department of Health at the hospital yesterday, along with Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, acting head of department Dr Musa Gumede, deputy director-general at the national Department of Health Dr Anban Pillay, and Jean-Luc Devleeschauwer, president of Varian Oncology Systems business in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Last year, the commission slammed the department for the poor handling of the oncology crisis in provincial hospitals. This was after equipment for screening and treating cancer patients was found to be broken or non-existent at two major Durban public hospitals. The DA had raised concerns of human rights violations to the commission in February 2016.
“We will continue to monitor the progress of oncology services in KZN, but are very pleased with the developments shared by the department so far,” Tanuja Munnoo, SAHRC provincial manager, said.
The repaired linear accelerator machine at Addington has been working since June 6 and a new one is expected to start working from early next month.
“All the patients that have been waiting for radiotherapy will be called back and newly diagnosed patients will also be attended to,” said Zuma.
She added that more patients would be attended to when the second oncologist and overall manager of the Durban Oncology Services, Dr Shona Bhadree, resumed duties next month as head of the clinical unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
Zuma said each machine at Addington Hospital would be able to service about 30 patients a day.
According to her, six patients were booked to start treatment this week.
Zuma said that re-initiating radiotherapy at Addington was a process and that once everything was in order, more patients would be helped.
For the oncology department to run efficiently, Zuma added, she would ideally like to have at least five to six specialists to work with.
“Once training of oncologists resumes at Addington, it will be easier to grow the department in terms of staff.”
DA Health spokesperson Dr Imran Keeka said the department was making all these changes because it was under pressure.
“I feel like the situation is even worse than before because there were three oncologists and the waiting list was three to five months, but now there is only one oncologist and the waiting period is up to a year,” said Keeka.
He said people must not get lost in the euphoria of the reopening of the oncology unit at Addington.
“Justice must still be found for all the patients who died waiting,” he said.
Devleeschauwer assured that the repaired machine had been restored and upgraded.
He said: “We have a maintenance contract that will ensure that these machines remain in their best condition.”