Some facilities in the public health-care sector have been hit by shortages of certain medication. In addition, some medication has proved to be expensive. Picture: Pexels
Johannesburg - The Department of Health has promised to improve its processes for the issuing of tenders for the supply and distribution of cancer drugs.

This comes as some facilities in the public health-care sector have been hit by shortages of certain medication. In addition, some medication has proved to be expensive.

Officials from the department on Friday acknowledged that there had been some hiccups and delays in the procurement of services from certain suppliers.

Dr Alicia Sheriff, an oncologist at the Department of Health, said there were differences between provinces, adding that the availability and procurement of medication was managed on a national basis. She said the national department had already begun the process of tabling a drug list to ensure that cheaper drugs, at more affordable prices, were obtained from suppliers.

The director in the non-communicable diseases cluster at the department, Sandhya Singh, said there were many complex factors at play when it came to access to cancer drugs.

“The public sector wants to make all (the medication) essential medicines. It is not negotiable; if a medication is on the essential medicines list, it has to be available.

"At the moment, the department is strengthening its systems to deliver better access. We agree that medicine is expensive but a lot is being done in engaging with the private sector.”

Singh and Sheriff were speaking at a round-table on cancer hosted by the department in Braamfontein.

Gauteng has the highest rate of child and adolescent cancer cases, with statistics nationally showing that a majority of child deaths in the future would be due to cancer.

In South Africa, the leading cancers affecting women are breast and cervical cancers and in men prostate cancer.

Dr Manala Makua, chief director for maternal and women’s health at the Department of Health, outlined that South Africa faced a quadruple burden of disease such as HIV/Aids, non-communicable diseases, among others, saying that to tackle cancer a patient-centred approach was pivotal.

She said the World Health Organisation had already set in motion targets for the screening of women for cervical cancer as well as issuing HPV vaccines to young girls.

The World Health Organisation has set a global target of 90% for the vaccination of girls between nine and 15 by 2030, while Makua indicated that South Africa’s target was 70%.

She stressed that women should take care of their health.

“As a woman, please do yourself a favour and talk to your aunts, daughters, mothers. Make sure that before you turn 50 you have been exposed to cervical screening. Conduct follow-ups and ensure you get your results,” she said. She highlighted that the earlier women sought help, the better chance they stood in reducing risks.

A member of the ministerial advisory committee, Jennifer Geel, lamented the fact that children were often neglected when it came to conversations around cancer.

“Cancer is what is going to kill our kids. It’s something we should all be afraid of. It will emerge as the leading cause of death in children,” she said. Geel said it was expensive to treat a child suffering from cancer; it required highly specialised care undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team.

Breast cancer survivor Neo Lesela, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November last year, said she had learnt the importance of changing one’s lifestyle.

She said that although her journey was hard she had employed various mechanisms to deal with her ailment and this included changing what she ate and dressing well.

Meanwhile, officials said it was no secret that there were challenges in collating data for the National Cancer Registry.

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