Addington Hospital came under the spotlight during an oversight visit by MPs to Durban. Picture: Nosipho Mngoma/ANA
Durban - A new cancer treatment machine is on the cards for Addington Hospital. 

This was revealed by Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo who was reporting to the select committee on social services. 

Committee chairperson Landulile Cathy Dlamini said on Sunday she had instructed the department to provide a detailed plan, with timelines, on how the challenges which have thrown it into crisis will be overcome within the next month.

Reporting to the committee after the oversight visit to Addington Hospital on Friday, Dhlomo said the department was anticipating finalising the process to buy a new machine within the next few days. 

This comes after an assessment of the two broken radiography machines at Addington, which contributed to the oncology crisis in the province. 

Varian, which manufactures the machines, presented the department with two options, the department said. 

One option is to repair the machines and do a software upgrade on both, then enter into a five-year maintenance contract. 

Varian machines had been sold and maintained in South Africa by Tecmed until April, when the US-based Varian Medical Systems announced that they were establishing a direct sales and service operation in Johannesburg. 

The other option is to repair and upgrade the software on one of the machines which requires less work to fix, and in lieu of repairing the second one, buy a new machine with better technology. 

The department’s supply chain management, provincial treasury and national Department of Health are in favour of the second option. 

When they were installed in 2009, the machines cost about R94 million.

Although the department is under 
financial strain, funding for a new machine may come from the national department and Treasury.

This and other interventions were welcomed by the committee but it called for more permanent measures to be implemented.

Members were in the province to check on – among other things – the progress the department had made in implementing the recommendations of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in its damning report on the oncology crisis in the province. 

Dhlomo said that besides the repair of the machines, the management of patients and the recruitment of oncologists were also among the priorities to remedy the crisis. 

A management plan was adopted to deal with the patients, some of whom – according to the SAHRC report – were waiting for up to eight months for treatment. 

While the process of recruiting more oncologists was under way, the department had partnered with private oncologists, medical officers, radiotherapists and oncology nurses to help deal with the backlog. 

To ease the burden on the three oncology centres – Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Addington and Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg – a new site was established on the North Coast.

Since it started operating in July, this state site screens, diagnoses and treats patients on referral to the Ngwelezane and Lower Umfolozi Regional Hospitals.

It is being run by private oncologists from Joint Medical Holdings (JMH). 

As at Addington currently, this site treats only patients who require chemotherapy. 

“KZN Treasury has granted the department a deviation authority to contract JMH for a fee to offer radiotherapy to patients on the North Coast. The contract will cater for 50-100 patients a month, which will ease the backlog,” said Dhlomo.

The Mercury