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KZN Health pumps millions into resolving oncology crisis

Head of KZN Health Department Musa Gumede told the commission that millions have been spent on efforts to deal with oncology problems in the province.

FILE: Head of the KwaZulu Natal Health Department Musa Gumede gives evidence before the SAHRC on the province’s oncology crisis. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The head of the KwaZulu-Natal’s Health Department has told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that close to R40 million has been spent in the past two years to try and deal with the backlog of cancer treatment for patients in the province.

Musa Gumede appeared before the commission in Braamfontein on Monday to answer questions about the department's role in dealing with the oncology crisis in the province.

The commission last month served MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo with a subpoena after he and his department were singled out in a damning report by the commission last year.

Officials were found to have violated the rights of oncology patients at the Addington and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals.

Gumede delivered a presentation to SAHRC Chair Professor Bongani Majola that lasted more than two hours.

Gumede told the commission that millions have been spent on efforts to deal with oncology problems in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This R40 million is money that we’ve put on the programme to try and reduce the backlog. We’re going to spend R20 million on repairing the machines and we’re budgeting R75 million in the next 18 months.”

A report by the commission found that the department violated patients’ rights to access healthcare services because officials failed to comply with the norms and standards set out in the law.

The report also found that the measures the department committed to implement in efforts to end the crisis were "inadequate and unacceptable".

WAITING TIMES

Gumede has told the SAHRC that cancer patients are made to wait six to seven months for a gynaecological appointment at the province's hospitals.

He told Majola there are different waiting periods for appointments and treatments at KwaZulu-Natal hospitals that specifically deal with cancer patients.

“The gynaecological clinic has a waiting period of six to seven months because of the pressure.”

Majola and other officials have been questioning Gumede about the long waiting times and the effect this might have on patients.

The Breathe Health Foundation’s Louise Turner says some patients die before they’re able to see a doctor.

“The worst case scenario is that patients go home because they’re not getting treatment and after a year or two, they die.”

Gumede has also been questioned about revelations that Durban’s public oncology services are in crisis with doctors leaving government hospitals for the private sector because of unsatisfactory working conditions, including the lack of working equipment.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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