Women needing to undergo screening for breast cancer are being turned away at a major KwaZulu-Natal hospital because its mammogram machine has not worked for at least two months.
Ngwelezana Hospital in Empangeni has been without a mammogram machine since July, resulting in 600 women having to reschedule their appointments for breast cancer screening.
On Wednesday acting hospital manager Dr Bright Madlala admitted the machine was out of order.
Madlala said the hospital had been waiting since July for authorisation for the machine to be repaired as well as other crucial medical equipment, such as its Lodox machine – a low-dose X-ray machine used in hospital trauma wards.
He said the hospital was waiting on the KwaZulu-Natal health department’s Health Technology Services (HTS) division to issue an “order to service providers” so they can repair the vital machines.
“All medical equipment in the hospital has service providers that are responsible for maintaining and servicing them where necessary,” explained Madlala.
“Once the quotation is received, it is sent to HTS, who will then issue an order for the machine to be repaired. This is why there is sometimes a delay in the repairing of these machines.”
He said that often replacement parts would need to be ordered from overseas, further delaying repairs.
Ngwelezana Hospital caters for residents of the Zululand, King Cetshwayo and uMkhanyakude districts, which, according to 2011 census data, have a combined population of about three million people.
On average, 60 000 new patients visit the hospital every year, with an average of 7 700 patients needing treatment every month.
Madlala said when their breast cancer testing machine was in working order the hospital carried out an average of five mammograms a day.
The Lodox machine is an X-ray machine used in polytrauma cases (a person who has sustained multiple traumatic injuries) to determine the extent of the injuries.
“For both these machines quotations have been requested and were sent to HTS,” said Madlala.
The Democratic Alliance spokesperson for health in KZN, MPL Dr Imran Keeka, on Thursday said it was yet another slap in the face for women’s health.
“Effectively, about 700 patients would not have been screened for breast cancer during this time,” he said.
Keeka said breast cancer was one of the leading types of the disease in women in the province.
The only other walk-in mammography service in KZN is at RK Khan Hospital in Durban.
“Last year the Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said in a statement released on World Cancer Day that ‘Working together, we can beat cancer,” said Keeka.
“The breakdown of equipment at Ngwelezana and the recent breakdown of a linear accelerator – radiotherapy- cancer machine at Grey’s hospital in Pietermaritzburg, as well as the dysfunctional machine at Addington Hospital (in Durban) shows very little commitment to his statement. It makes it appear as nothing more than lip service appropriate to the occasion.”
Keeka added: “Curable cancers are becoming incurable under a very uncaring government.”
The DA said it raised its concerns regarding cancer and the shortage of equipment both for diagnosis and treatment with the South African Human Rights Commission.
– African News Agency (ANA)