SAMA says the Gauteng Department of Health must act swiftly to assist cancer patients from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says the Gauteng Department of Health must act swiftly to assist cancer patients from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. The Association says without urgent intervention, these patients will not receive the necessary cancer care.
“Following the fire that ravaged the hospital in mid-April, doctors do not have access to the linear accelerator nor any patient files which are in a block deemed unsafe because of fire damage. While some arrangements have been made with Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, this is insufficient, and many patients are merely sitting at home without receiving any care at all. Urgent intervention is needed here,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of SAMA.
Dr Coetzee says SAMA has received information that there are currently 160 cancer patients from Charlotte Maxeke Hospital who are not receiving cancer care because files, and the computerised planning system servers of the Radiation Oncology Department, are all in the same block which closed after the fire and which has not reopened since.
“Waiting times for radiation patients before the fire were already extremely long – up to six weeks – and Steve Biko can only assist with palliative radiation. Curative treatment patients are all at home waiting and those who are being seen there are facing long waiting times. All of this points to the need for an urgent alternative arrangement at Charlotte Maxeke,” says Dr Coetzee.
SAMA says the long waiting times for patients will render most radiation treatments non-curative. It proposes that some form of “holding chemotherapy” be administered to patients while attempts are being made to get them back on radiation treatment.
Among the other urgent steps SAMA is asking the Gauteng Department of Health to undertake is to give doctors immediate access to the block in which files and servers are stored, and to consider erecting tents outside the main building to enable access for patients to the necessary radiation machines.
“We realise this is not optimal nor standard but we have to consider every option to maintain treatment for these patients. We want to urge the Gauteng Department of Health to apply its mind seriously to this situation with a view to resolving it as soon as possible. As always, SAMA remains available to assist the department and doctors in arriving at this solution,” concludes Dr Coetzee.