By Robert Tapfumaneyi
CANCER patients using Parirenyatwa and Mpilo have had their health worries further complicated by reports that radiotherapy machines at the two top government hospitals have not been working for almost month.
The two radiotherapy centres are the only government facilities that offer such specialist oncology services in the country.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said the Health Ministry must urgently facilitate repairs on the critical machines.
“ZADHR is reliably informed that the radiotherapy machines have been out of service for almost a month posing a great danger to cancer patients countrywide,” said the doctors group.
“ZADHR argues 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.”
ZADHR added, “It increases out of pocket health expenditures and consequently, household poverty as patients seek care in private but costly alternatives.
“The right to palliative care is entwined to the right to health and we condemn the psychological trauma cancer patients are made to go through during these episodes.”
ZADHR also want Health Minister Obadiah Moyo, parliament’s health committee and cabinet to urgently institute an investigation into “this cyclical and perennial breakdown of radiotherapy machines at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo Hospitals especially on procurement and service support of equipment”.
The breakdown of the cancer machines comes at a time public health institutions are failing to procure essential medicines and equipment.
This has led to senior and junior doctors repeatedly going on industrial action in protest over shortages of drugs, equipment and hospital sundries.
The medical practitioners have argued it was dangerous to work in hospitals when one does not have protective clothing.
Doctors say this also reduces their capacity to deliver for the benefit of vulnerable patients.