Don’t get cancer in Gauteng if you don’t have a medical aid and have to go to a government hospital. You could die in the queue.
Being diagnosed with cancer in Gauteng can mean dangerously long waiting periods before treatment. Doctors say a shortage of specialists is behind this.
The two major state hospitals in the province that provide cancer care, Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital, both need intervention in their oncology departments, according to DA MPL Jack Bloom.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, said South Africa in general had a severe shortage of state practitioners in oncology. He said this was not necessarily a failure of the system.
Grootboom was responding to the recent revelation at Charlotte Maxeke that 300 prostate cancer patients could wait up to two years for treatment, while a breast cancer patient could wait up to six months.
“From what I read in the Human Rights Commission’s report, there is indeed a shortage but the matter is being addressed. That kind of thing is not necessarily a failure on the part of authorities, it’s not a failure of the system.
“It’s a matter of not having enough trained staff and the lack of ability to keep them in the service. There is simply not enough people and the majority of those who do qualify rather go to private institutions,” Grootboom said.
“I am not sure if the working conditions at state institutions do play a role, but I know there are a number of push factors that drive specialists to go to private institutions.”
Bloom pointed out that for any kind of cancer, these waiting periods could be deadly.
“With cancer, every day counts. For prostate cancer, to wait for years and for breast cancer, six months, survival chances can go down substantially,” he said.
Grootboom said these waiting periods were not acceptable but “it is better than in other places like KZN”. He said KZN oncology facilities showed a system failure, unlike in the rest of the country.