A RADIOTHERAPY machine acquired by the government four years ago for cancer treatment at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo is reportedly still lying idle, as Treasury is yet to provide money for its installation.
BY SOFIA MAPURANGA
The secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMa), Shingi Bopoto confirmed the development yesterday.
“We are surprised that the government can spend over $1,5 million on a machine that they do not use for over four years. It is still in its crate,” he said.
Bopoto said his organisation had sounded Health Minister David Parirenyatwa on the issue, but had received unsatisfactory answers.
“We are still pursuing the matter with the Ministry of Health in the hope that this situation is rectified. The machine is still in its crate as we speak,” he said.
The machine, used in radiotherapy, is critical in the treatment of cancer, which involves the elimination of affected cells without harming nearby healthy tissues.
Last year, failure to utilise the machine was attributed to staff shortages, amid indications that there was only one radiation physicist in the public health sector.
A public health specialist in the Health ministry, Milton Chemhuru, attributed failure to utilise the machine to financial constraints.
“I know that the National Aids Council (NAC) agreed to assist with the installation of the mammogram machines. For the radiotherapy one, I am sure it has to do with the costs associated with its installation,” he said.
Chemhuru revealed that as part of scaling up interventions to help in the fight against increasing cancer cases in the country, the government was in the process of integrating the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the country’s health programming.
“We are crafting an action plan for 2016 to 2020 aimed at increasing access, diagnosis and treatment of breast, cervical, prostate cancer including Kaposi sarcoma. Our vision is to increase health promotion programming so that citizens are diagnosed early since most of them present themselves at health institutions very late: when the cancers are at advanced stages,” he said.
Chemhuru emphasised the importance of decentralising cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment adding that there was need to shift from the current system where cancer services were mostly found in major hospitals.
“Integrating breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment into other existing health programmes will ensure that it is detected early and treated at a low cost, thereby, reducing cancer prevalence and deaths in the country,” he said.
Zimbabwe is celebrating cancer awareness month this October and Zima’s 2016 theme is: Connect Engage and Inspire.
Breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer among women in Zimbabwe accounting for 7% of all the diagnosed cases in 2014 alone.
Chemhuru revealed that in 2014 alone, there were more than 7 000 confirmed cases of various cancers in the country.