Dr Nokwanda Zuma was said to be the second black female oncologist in KwaZulu-Natal. She graduated recently and will now be stationed at Addington Hospital's Oncology Unit. Picture Bongani Mbatha/ANA.

DURBAN - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health MEC has pinned its hopes of relieving the oncology crisis in the province on two newly-graduated doctors.

The KZN oncology crisis has been ongoing for several months after it was revealed last year that the provincial department of health has not had sufficient staff and machinery to treat cancer patients.

But on Tuesday, KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said oncology services have been restored at Addington, with a new team being employed to handle new equipment, purchased from an international company, worth millions of Rands.

Also read: Addington treats its first cancer patient

Dr Nokwanda Zuma tells why her employment to Addington Hospital as an oncologist is so special, as it brings her back to her grandmother. Video: Karinda Jagmohan.

Dr Nokwanda Zuma, who graduated recently after completing her training at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town will spearhead the Radiotherapy treatment, while Dr Shona Bhadree is expected to join the team in July.

“There has always been chemotherapy and surgical procedures on cancer patients in this hospital. Radiotherapy is the third leg in restoring services,” he said.

The new Varian Oncology System for Radiotherapy has been installed at Addington hospital, and after a head of the clinical unit, Dr Bhadree, has been appointed at the start of July, up to 40 patients can be treated per day.

Radiotherapy manager, Thabisile Hlengwa, operates the new Linear Accelerator. The Radiotherapy machine is bought from Varian Oncology Systems. The company's president, Jean - Luc Devleeschauwer, is pictured left. Picture Bongani Mbatha/ANA.
Radiotherapy manager, Thabisile Hlengwa, operates the new Linear Accelerator. The Radiotherapy machine is bought from Varian Oncology Systems. The company's president, Jean - Luc Devleeschauwer, is pictured left. Picture Bongani Mbatha/ANA.

For Dr Zuma, who was said to be the second black female oncologist in KZN, the event was emotional as her grandmother was treated for cervical cancer almost 20 years ago “and the very same clinic” and is still alive, she said.

Radiotherapy manager at Addington Hospital, Thabisile Hlengwa, explains how the machine works. Video: Karinda Jagmohan.

Dhlomo and his department came under fire when the South African Human Rights Commission probed the department and found it violated the rights of patients in the province who had access to healthcare.

Dhlomo himself was also recently subpoenaed to appear before the SAHRC in Johannesburg to face the music about the cancer crisis in his department.

Also read: KZN health MEC to be hauled before SAHRC over oncology crisis

The registrar programme through which young minds in the medical field are trained, was cancelled in KZN as the department did not have any oncology doctors left to oversee the trainers.

Dhlomo said his department will make a submission, in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, to the Health Professions Council of South Africa to allow for the department to train registrar's once again.

Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo hopes that the employment of the newly-graduated doctors at Addington will allow the department to once again train upcoming oncologists. Video: Karinda Jagmohan.

Soon after the media briefing, Democratic Alliance KZN spokesperson on Health, Imran Keeka, released a statement calling on oncologists who are able to return to the provincial Health Department's workforce, to do so.

“The people of KwaZulu-Natal need the services of oncologists now more than ever. Currently, the situation in KZN is far worse than it was in 2016. At the time, there was a three to five month backlog in cancer treatment and there were still many oncologists. Today, the waiting period is 12 months and there is only one full-time oncologist available in the entire Southern part of the province. These factors mean that many more patients will be condemned to untimely deaths as a result of the progression of the disease before they can get treatment,” he said.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE