Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
The intensifying oncology crisis in KwaZulu-Natal was the talk of the town this week as activity related to addressing the situation hit a high.

National Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and KZN MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo both made statements in Parliament saying the crisis was being addressed. 

They presented a plan of action on the repair and procurement of cancer machines and the employment of oncologists.

But on the ground, there was a different reality.

Nurses and senior registrar doctors at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital said patients were still dying waiting for treatment while the Department of Health still had not presented a plan to them.

Positions for oncologists have been advertised but had yet to be filled.

The registrar doctors said the plan to have private oncologists offer their services had also backfired as they were only available for two days a week, for two hours.

The Select Committee on Social Services and the Select Committee on Education and Recreation were also in Durban this week to conduct oversight visits related to the crisis.

Dhlomo told the committee that his plan of action focused on the repair of the cancer machines, the management of patients and the recruitment of oncologists.

At this week’s oversight visits, DA KZN health spokesperson Dr Imran Keeka painted a gloomy picture of the situation at Addington Hospital, calling it “KZN’s sickest hospital”.

He said the visit revealed that oncologists are never on site, with cancer patients either seen by part-time volunteers twice weekly, or by unsupervised trainee oncologists who receive instructions via their cellphones. The hospital’s two radiotherapy machines were still broken.

“It is difficult to comprehend how oncology services at this hospital could possibly get any worse. Yet, during this week’s national health portfolio committee meeting, Dhlomo painted a very different picture, telling members that oncologists were seeing cancer patients daily.

“The visit has shown that Addington is a hospital in crisis, with staff shortages and broken equipment affecting almost every department.”

The plan presented in Parliament to deal with the crisis required millions in funding to be implemented, he said. 

“These are millions that KZN Health does not have. So then, how do they plan to address the situation and implement their own plan of action?”

Meanwhile, a forensic report into the oncology crisis and the broken cancer machines, which was meant to be released on Friday, did not appear.

But Department of Health spokesperson Joe Maila said the report in question had nothing to do with the oncology crisis and that there seemed to have been a misunderstanding.

“Nobody said anything about this report being released publicly. It is not even an oncology forensic report, it is a report into KZN Health. There appears to be some confusion,” said Maila.

The KZN Treasury, which was apparently meant to release the report in question, also claimed to know nothing about its release.

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Sunday Tribune