File photo: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic.

JOHANNESBURG - Four of the eight magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines in Gauteng public hospitals are broken, leading to waiting times as long as nine months for the diagnosis of hundreds of patients, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

"This is revealed in a written reply by Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku to my questions in the Gauteng legislature," DA Gauteng shadow health MEC Jack Bloom said.

The Chris Hani Baragwanath and George Mukhari hospitals each had two MRI machines, but could only rely on one machine as the other ones were broken. The MRI machine at the Helen Joseph Hospital had been broken since March this year, and Steve Biko’s MRI machine broke down a month ago, he said.

Kalafong Hospital had a functioning MRI machine, and the sole MRI at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital was working, but was very old and needed to be replaced urgently.

The worst situation was at Chris Hani Baragwanath where 607 patients were waiting nine months for an MRI scan. The situation at other hospitals was Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg - 761 patients waiting for seven months; George Mukhari - 298 adult patients and 120 children waiting for two to three months; Helen Joseph - current waiting time not given for 120 patients; Kalafong Hospital - 40-50 patients waiting between five days and two weeks; and Steve Biko - 200 patients waiting from two to four months.

MRI scans were a key diagnostic tool in modern medicine, but broken machines were causing extra suffering and life-threatening delays, especially for cancer patients. Speedy repairs and purchase of new equipment was vital for the effective functioning of hospitals.

"Frequently broken machines are another area of weakness that raises questions about government’s ability to implement its ambitious NHI [national health insurance] plans," Bloom said.

African News Agency (ANA)