Cancer patients in fix as Zimbabwe hangs onto one radiotherapy facility

THOUSANDS of cancer patients miss out on radiotherapy every year as Government run health institutions have only one functional facility at Mpilo Hospital servicing the entire nation, Zim Morning Post has learnt.

Zimbabwe has five cancer machines; two at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, while three are at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.

Currently, though, the country has only one functional facility at Mpilo Hospital servicing the entire nation while the remaining four are dysfunctional.

Common cancers need radiotherapy as a component of therapy at some point in the course of the management of their disease.

The situation has forced many cancer patients to seek treatment at either private hospitals or visit South African medical centres for those who can afford the bill.

Presently, cancer patients are being referred to Mpilo Hospital, which is also battling with just a single functional facility servicing about 100 patients a day.

The facility can only be serviced by its manufacturer who happens to be outside the country, Zim Morning Post was told.

Manufacturers of cancer machines recently recommended that the machines be subjected to uninterruptable power sources.

Fluctuating electricity has the potential to disrupt the smooth functioning of the machines, manufacturers have warned.

It has emerged that Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals requires about US$ 53 000 to service the other dysfunctional radiotherapy machines.

Parliamentarians recently expressed shock at why money  was not  being availed to public hospitals towards repair of the cancer machines.

Zimbabwe is one of the 28 countries to have radiotherapy machines secured for it by government.

 “It is our plea that the Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe prioritise health. We wrote letters to them in November last year, asking for money to service the machines,” said a hospital official who refused to be named

Some of the letters were written to our line ministry, that is, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, asking for money to service the machines.”

In a recent statement, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said the breakdown of radiotherapy machines were posing a great danger to cancer patients countrywide.

ZADHR said that cancer patients are being denied their right to healthcare as provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe through section 76.

Clinically, delays or interruptions in accessing radiotherapy sessions may result in tumour cell repopulation and can also require that restaging of the tumours be done when normal service resumes. This is both costly to the health system as a whole and provides harmful treatment bottlenecks to cancer patients,” read the statement. – Zim Morning Post