Cape Town-100415- Radiographer Jessica Bertelsmann at work with the new R8.4 million computerised tomography CT scanner at the Red Cross Children's Memorial hospital. Picture Ian Landsberg

CT scanners at three main KZN hospitals are not working, the provincial health department has admitted.

Patients have been referred to other state hospitals around Durban, further straining an already burdened department.

Provincial health spokes-man Sam Mkhwanazi said CT scanners at Stanger, King Edward VIII and Addington hospitals were not functioning.

Also known as CAT scanners, the machines are used to examine the brain and other parts of the body not easily visible in regular x-rays.

Using the machines, doctors are able to diagnose diseases early and more accurately.

Doctors at the hospitals have told the Sunday Tribune that patients who need scans for less urgent problems such as potential cancers or spine diseases will have to wait a long time as available scanning facilities will be used mainly for emergencies.

A doctor who works at Addington and King Edward VIII said the scanners were continually breaking.

“The problem is that the machines are overused. The machines at both hospitals were working fine earlier this year. Then, when the one at King Edward broke, they referred all the patients to Addington - which led to that one breaking,” said the doctor, who asked not to be named.

A senior doctor at Addington Hospital said, “There is a CT scan crisis and the breakdown protocol for emergency cases has been put in effect.

“This problem will probably go on for the next few weeks or several months. We can expect further delays in patient scanning and longer waiting times for elective cases.”

One of those affected was Charles Molefe, a 37-year-old hardware operator from Dann-hauser near Newcastle.

He had a doctor’s appointment on April 14 at King Edward VIII but was sent home because the machines were not working.

The father of two said he was diagnosed with TB in 2002 but was later cleared.

Earlier this year, he had severe chest pains and decided to go for an X-ray.

“They found I had a hole in my left lung and told me I needed a CT scan. But when I got there, I was told the machines were not working,” said Molefe.

He said he and several other patients were asked to leave their contact details and told they would be contacted when the machines were fixed. But this had not yet happened.

“I will call the hospital to find out what to do because I am still in pain,” Molefe said.

Florence Mdluli from KwaMashu said her elderly mother had stomach cancer and the family wanted to know how far the cancer had spread.

“I got a call on April 14 and was told the scanners were broken. They said they would call us to let us know when they were fixed, but we couldn’t wait because it was an emergency.

“So we went to St Aidan’s Hospital for the surgery without the scan,” said Mdluli. “We were lucky that the operation went well. We were told that the machines would be up and running by September this year,” Mdluli said.

Mkhwanazi said the CT scanner at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital also had a malfunction, but it had since been repaired and was now working.

Of the three hospitals affected, he said, “We are fixing the machines and in some instances replacing them.”

Mkhwanazi said service delivery had not been compromised.

“Patients are being transferred to other institutions, such as Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, King Dinu-zulu, Prince Mshiyeni and RK Khan, in terms of the department’s established patient re-ferral system.”

The department said CT scanner services would be available at Addington Hospital by this week.

Earlier this week General Electric manager, Chris Austin, told news agency Sapa the company that had installed the CT scanner at the hospital had been called in to repair it.

He said there was no maintenance contract for the facility and the department first had to place an order with the company and pay for the necessary repairs and maintenance work.

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Sunday Tribune