#KZNOncologyCrisis: No one is trying to discredit you MEC Dhlomo – you have done that all on your own

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on  Health

#KZNOncologyCrisis: No one is trying to discredit you MEC Dhlomo – you have done that all on your own

 

Attempts by KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, to paint himself and his Department out of a corner when it comes to the severity of the province’s ongoing oncology crisis are both astounding and criminal.

The MEC’s latest stunt follows the broadcasting of a television programme on Sunday night which highlighted the extent of the crisis, with the revelation that there are some 8 000 cancer patients waiting for treatment in KZN.

In a statement released on Monday, the MEC claimed that there is a campaign by the media to discredit him and his Department. The DA can assure him that there is no need for anyone to do this when he – without anyone’s help – has done such a good job of bringing KZN’s Department of Health (DoH) to its knees during the past 10 years.

The MEC further stated that there are currently around 500 patients waiting for oncology services. The question is – what happened to the nearly 7 500 he reported to the SAHRC?  Did they die? If not, where have they vanished to? Even if they had worked 24/7 it is impossible for the current resource pool of staff and equipment to have reduced the numbers to such an extent since May, which is when oncologists began working at the two Durban hospitals.

The MEC’s statement also contains other inaccuracies, including the following;

  • The information that the DA made public regarding the province’s estimated 8 000 patient cancer treatment backlog was not obtained from the SAHRC. It was obtained through a source from the National Ministry of Health. This document was presented to the National Health Council during June.
  • The KZN DoH owns six radiotherapy machines – not seven as the MEC suggests – of which five are in use.  At Addington only one of the two machines is in use because there are no staff to operate the second one.
  • There is only one oncologist working at Addington, not two as he suggests in his media statement.  This is not only a gross exaggeration but a blatant lie
  • The MEC would also have everyone believe that there are on-site oncology services at Queen Nandi and Ngwelezana Hospitals. This is not the case. The KZN Health portfolio committee, of which I am a member, recently visited Queen Nandi Hopsital. We found a small room, manned by two nurses that receive patients with identified cancers, and refers them to the private sector for treatment.  There is no radiotherapy machine there and to suggest this is a lie.

Then there are the errors around waiting times for treatment in KZN. Before the resumption of oncology services, it was estimated that the waiting times would be would be up to 12 months.  This is what was said under oath to the SAHRC. To suggest otherwise is an admission to telling even more lies. Coupled with this is the fact that screening equipment in KZN, such as Mammograms, do not function in all of the eight facilities which provide this service. There are also backlogs for CT Scans at most facilities, ranging from a month to 12 months.  There is also no telling how long it will still take to get to receive an appointment to see an oncologist let alone how long it will take to get treatment.

Then there is the sad reality that additional cancer screening programmes across the country– as announced by President Ramaphosa in his inaugural speech and later confirmed by National Health Minister Motsoaledi and then announced by MEC Dhlomo is in budget speech -  will no longer be rolled out.  This was recently revealed at a National Health Council meeting.  In other words, all three of them lied or at the very least made more false promises.

In fact – the only area where MEC Dhlomo is correct in his statement is that KZN is not where it was in terms of oncology services.  The truth is that the service is far worse off than when the DA first reported the lack of available treatment to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in 2016. And it is undoubtedly far worse than when oncology services were introduced to the province in 2009.

The question is how did the service collapse in the first place? And why were more than 500 patients that we know of, left to die while waiting for treatment? And why did MEC Dhlomo do nothing when he had the power to? The answer is that he simply did not care enough.

It is only when MEC Dhlomo comes to terms with the fact that he is a failed MEC and when Premier Willies Mchunu fires him that KZN’s DoH will begin to heal. The MEC must either resign or he must be fired.  The people of KZN can no longer remain victims of an ANC government that has failed to deliver health services and which has caused the deaths of so many. This ANC led government must be punished for their failures and corruption at the ballot box next year.  Enough of their lies and cover-ups.

The DA is working for change that builds One South Africa for All, where the people come first through dignified healthcare and service delivery.

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