Charlotte Maxeke Hospital’s cancer unit short-staffed with broken radiation machines, says MEC
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Johannesburg – The Gauteng Department of Health MEC has admitted that the cancer unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital is short-staffed, is frequently out of stock of chemotherapy drugs and its radiation machines are broken and out-of-date.
This was revealed by the DA’s spokesperson on health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, who said MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi stated all the issues at the hospital’s cancer unit in a written reply to his questions in the provincial legislature.
According to Bloom, Mokgethi also revealed that the cancer unit needs 175 staff to provide a proper service yet only has 104 members of staff.
“The shortages include 16 specialist oncologists, 15 radiation therapists, nine specialists in training, nine medical physics interns, six registered nurses, five staff nurses, three oncology trained pharmacists, two medical registrars and two medical officers,” Bloom said.
Other problems are said to include:
– Recurrent chemotherapy drug shortages delaying patient treatments.
– Insufficient number of nursing staff for the inpatient volume which falls below the international recommended one to four nurse to patient ratio.
– Insufficient nursing staff for the volume of infusions in the outpatient unit.
– Insufficient number of linear accelerators for patient volume.
– 50% of equipment that is old and needs replacing, causing regular breakdowns and treatment delays.
– Two cobalt units that have not been working for two years.
– A brachytherapy unit and a north voltage unit that have been broken since March.
Bloom said the worst waiting list was for prostate cancer patients and that 700 patients are on hormonal therapy and will wait from three to five years for radiotherapy.
The recurrent chemotherapy drug shortages, he said, also lead to delays or switching of treatment midway, which results in “suboptimal response rates” and impacts on the overall survival of patients.
“Insufficient nursing staff below the internationally recommended one to four nurse to patient ratio “increases the risk of administration errors which can result in poorer outcomes, fatalities and treatment delays”.
“All these problems pre-dated the closure of the cancer unit after the fire six weeks ago. The alternative arrangements to treat cancer patients at the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko hospitals are woefully inadequate, and the treatment delays are getting worse,” Bloom said.