Crisis As Country Relies On One Radiotherapy Machine

Cancer patients have raised red flags over the country’s health delivery system amid concerns that only one radiotherapy machine is working.

Radiotherapy treatment uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

In an interview with a cancer patient Tendai Gwata who was diagnosed of stage three breast cancer last year in July, she said her cancer treatment was greatly affected after the radiotherapy machine broke down in the middle of treatment.

For her to treatment to be complete, Gwata has to go through 30 sessions of radiotherapy of which the last one in Harare broke down before she could finish her treatment.

“Since then I have had chemo and surgery which thankfully proved effective. However to complete the treatment I needed to have radiotherapy, which I started in March this year. Before I could finish the machine broke down and till today has not been fixed,” said Gwata.

There are six radiotherapy machines in Zimbabwe that is three at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one private at Oncocare and two at Mpilo hospital.

Parirenyatwa machines have been on and off since last year as the government tried to engage foreign based engineers to come and repair the machines.

“Broken machines means l cannot finish treatment. The only machine that is working is in Bulawayo which means I have to embark on a journey with all the travel and hotel expenses on me putting in mind the costs I have incurred so far to fight this cancer,”

In an interview with a 263Chat, a Consultant Oncologist from Parirenyatwa Group Of Hospitals , Dr Anna Nyakabau said there are other various options that can be used to treat cancer hence people should opt for those until the machines are repaired.

There are over 200 cancers and once diagnosed must be treated to reduce cells.

“It is a sad situation that the machines are not working because that compromises the quality of treatment, because most of the patients in stage 3 or 4 require combination treatment of both radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” Dr Nyakabau  said.

Radiotherapy is the second-most successful method of curing cancer, and it can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy to cure and sometimes treat benign tumors.

Cancer has become a huge burden on the health delivery system, but the treatment regime has not been carefully addressed, with reports of obsolete equipment, which often breaks down, being used at the public facilities.

According to the Health and Child Care ministry, cancer has become more threatening than HIV and Aids.

Gwata tried to reach out to the Ministry of Health and Child Care on how she can assist to get the machines to no success.

“I engaged the Ministry and initially they were keen to help. Now they don’t answer my calls or texts or emails. I guess they were hoping I would just disappear,” said Gwata.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Gibson Mhlanga could not be reached for comment but last week during a tour at Mpilo, he said all was in place to restore the service.


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