KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu says the brand new R50 million oncology machine unveiled at Grey’s Hospital this morning is proof yet again that government is serious about providing good quality healthcare for all, regardless of social status, or whether a person has medical aid or not.
The recent commissioning of the new, second linear accelerator has injected renewed vigour and excitement at Grey’s Hospital, strengthening the tertiary hospital's capacity to provide better and faster oncology services for scores of people who come from Umgungundlovu, Umzinyathi, Uthukela, Amajuba and Harry Gwala districts.
With two machines, the hospital will now be able to treat up to 75 cancer patients each day, up from 45 with the old single machine.
MEC Simelane-Zulu also says the arrival of this state-of-the-art machine at Grey’s Hospital is a catalyst for the advancement of existing plans to establish a brand new tertiary or central hospital at King Cetshwayo District.
This will bring convenience to cancer patients who are currently forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to access oncology services in urban centres at eThekwini (Addington and King Cetshwayo districts) and at Umgungundlovu (Grey’s Hospital – saving the Department millions of rand in transportation costs in the process.
Figures from the W.H.O’s International Agency for Research on Cancer show that in 2018, South Africa had a total of 107 467 cancer cases (made up of 47 764 males and 59 703 females); with a total of 57 373 deaths (which was made up of 28 138 males and 29 235 females).
The most common types were:
• Breast cancer (at 14 097 or 13.1%),
• Cervical cancer (at 12 983 or 12.1%),
• Prostate cancer (at 12452 of 11.6%),
· Lung cancer (at 8 239 or 7.7%), and
• Colo-rectal cancer (at 6 937 or 6.5%).
Other types of cancer made up for 52 759 (or 49.1%) of the total number of cases.
Speaking at Grey’s Hospital this morning, MEC Simelane-Zulu said: “We have found it extremely challenging that cancer is now the number three killer among all races (after tuberculosis and diabetes). We have also found it most challenging in the Black community in particular, because that is a community that doesn’t readily accept that cancer is actually one of the killers that we are faced with.
“We don’t have to be killed by cancer. We have to be screened, and get tested for cancer so that we can get the treatment. If we don’t get proactive, by the time we get treated you find that the cancer is too advanced and as the Department of Health, we are unable to help.
“We need the whole of society to make one another conscious of this, in order to ensure that we get our people to get tested.
“We’re therefore calling upon our people to come forward much early, so that we are able to detect and treat the cancer.”
Before the unveiling of the new machine, the MEC was taken through a presentation about the new machine, which showed that its arrival would:
· Enable Grey’s Hospital to treat a maximum of 75 patients each day, which is essential to ensure prompt access to radiotherapy services than was previously possible;
· Reduce the burden on hospital services that patients require while awaiting radiotherapy;
· Make the treatment sessions quicker and easier for the patients to cope with, while it also has the potential to be used in future to provide radio-surgery (with appropriate upgrades), which was not possible with the older machine.
The MEC was extremely impressed, describing the machine as one of the best, and comparable with the standard in the private healthcare sector.
She said its installation at Grey’s Hospital showed that the Department had the capability to provide the best health possible, and was a sign of good things to come.
“The kind of work that is being done here should be replicated in the rest of the province. We need a fourth oncology facility (after Addington, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, and Grey’s Hospital. Because if we don’t plan properly, at some point, we’re going to be inundated with numbers that we won’t be able to deal with properly.
“The fact that we have this new machine tells us that we really can do this... and make sure the service at Grey’s is at its best, and then we incrementally move to the north of the province.
“As part of those plans, we’ve agreed that we’re going to have a hospital with an oncology unit in that part of the province.”
Turning her attention to the medical specialists present, the MEC said: “If we work together, and you assist us to get specialists there, it will reduce a lot of the work and the large numbers that you are seeing here.
“Even if the specialists that we need give us two or three days of their time, that is enough so that we avoid making patients travel for a long time to get assistance. I am relying on you specialists to go and recruit your colleagues on our behalf, so that you see a manageable number of patients.”
The MEC added: “Access to health is a human right. As soon as everyone begins to understand that, and we are allowed to ensure that the best out there is what’s provided in the public sector, that is when our people will reap the benefits.
“With this, we’re saying it’s not only people who can afford… it’s not only people who are insured… who have a right to get the best treatment.
“Those who are uninsured, like the majority of our people – who come to our facilities – also have a right to be given the best treatment.”
Issued by the KZN Department of Health