File picture: S'bonelo Ngcobo/Independent Media
Durban – At least two KwaZulu-Natal families mourning the untimely death of their loved ones from cancer, have blamed the state of the Oncology Department at Addington Hospital for their loss. These patients apparently died while waiting for radiotherapy.

The DA and the IFP have since called on the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the state of public healthcare in the province.

The commission has acknowledged receipt of the DA’s request, which the Daily News has seen.

Earlier this month, the Daily News reported that cancer patients were referred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital as the only two radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital were broken.

A Richards Bay man said his 46-year-old wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it killed her within a year.

“She was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer in June after she suffered continuous bleeding. At first, I took her to a local gynaecologist, but the outcome was not satisfactory. Since I had to use cash for that, I decided to take her to a hospital in Empangeni where she was diagnosed,” said the husband, who asked to remain anonymous.

His wife was then transferred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital to have her womb removed.

“In August, the cancer had escalated to stage 3 and in September to stage 3B. They took too long to take her for radiation, and when she was sent to Addington Hospital, we were told the machines were broken. She passed away on November26,” he said.

They have a 7-year-old daughter who constantly asks her father about her mother.

“It is sad and painful to think of all the other women I met in Addington hoping to get help. There must have been about 50 of them,” he said.

Nozuko Mkhungo’s mother, Betreace, 56, died in December at St Andrew’s Provincial Hospital in Harding.

She had cervical cancer and her family blames the hospital for “not doing enough” to ensure treatment machines were in order.

Betreace spent about a month at the Harding hospital, having travelled between Harding and Durban without receiving treatment.

“She was bleeding blood clots. This all happened around February last year when she complained about stomach cramps and pain and started vomiting. She lost weight and also lost her appetite.

“The hospital told us only in November that she had cancer and booked her into Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital for December, but it was too late. She was weak and we were told there was nothing the hospital could do for her,” Mkhungo said.

She said it was a “painful loss” for the family because had her mother been diagnosed early, she could have been saved.

A North Coast mother of five is currently confined to her hospital bed. She had been to King Edward VIII and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals.

“I’m back here (at a hospital on the North Coast) because I was told the machines were broken at Addington. I can’t take this any more. It’s painful, especially when I think about my children.

“My legs are swollen and I can’t feel my fingers. I’m in diapers all the time. This is embarrassing,” she said.

She has been going to the hospital since March last year. A biopsy was done in May.

“The results came back on August 28 and the doctor told me that I had cervical cancer stage 3B. I have since been back and forth trying to get help. I was given November 16 to go to Addington to start radiotherapy treatment, but without the machines, this can’t be done. (On Saturday), I was told I’m in stage 4B and that my liver was swollen,” she said.

The Medical Rights Advocacy Network believes patients are not given proper medical information.

“We are extremely concerned about the failure of the KZN Health Department to meet constitutional imperatives to provide quality health care. The department’s projected overspend of more than R1billion this financial year suggests gross mismanagement and apparent serious irregularities in procurement of goods and services,” said Mary de Haas, spokesperson for the advocacy network.

“The most devastating indictment of the department’s abrogation of patients’ health rights is found in the suffering and deaths of victims of cancer. These patients have been denied their right to life-saving radiotherapy (which at least half of cancer patients need). Cancer treatment regimens also need access to functioning scanners and therapy machines.”

Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he had responded to the network’s correspondence about cancer patients’ treatment.

“For some reason, they decided to go to the premier. They know that we are dealing with the matter and we can schedule an interview with the Daily News and give you details of what we have planned,” Dhlomo said.

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