Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
ZIMBABWE has only one functional radiotherapy machine which is at Mpilo Central Hospital, a development that has left the institution struggling to cope with demand for the services of this lifesaving machine.
The machine which is at the hospital’s Cancer Unit, is one of the two that the hospital has.
The country has only five such mahines and three of them are at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and a private health institution in Harare but are all down.
Mpilo hospital is now serving patients from all over the country that require radiotherapy treatment.
The hospital has been failing to cope with demand for treatment from its own catchment area and the situation has now been worsened by the break down of machines in Harare.
Mpilo used to have an average of 150 cancer patients on its waiting list at any given time but following the break down of the Harare machines, the figure has ballooned.
Recent statistics show that more than 60 percent of patients are being attended to at Mpilo Central Hospital
Cancer Unit and other public health institutions have stage three and four cancers.
At this stage, the cancer would have advanced so much that it is virtually incurable.
Stage three and four cancers require palliative treatment which is only meant to treat symptoms or ease pain until the patient dies.
Acting Mpilo clinical director Dr Xolani Ndlovu said the backlog for radiotherapy treatment has been worsened by patients referred from Harare.
He said the hospital has been able to offer uninterrupted radiotherapy services to patients as the machine is no longer affected by voltage fluctuations when there is power outages as was the case in the past.
Dr Ndlovu said one patient needs about seven weeks treatment and about 30 patients are being attended to per day using the single machine.
He said patients from outside Bulawayo with no relatives were housed at the Isagogwana Cancer Hostel within Mpilo which was a brain child of the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe.
“The waiting list has been worsened by the fact that we have only one machine working in the country as machines at Parirenyatwa broke down a long time ago,” said Dr Ndlovu.
He said the hospital was now attending to patients from different parts of the country and as such was being overwhelmed.
“Our staff are however doing their best, working long hours to ensure we treat as many patients per day in an attempt to reduce the backlog. We are treating 30 to 35 patients a day,” said Dr Ndlovu.
Chronicle caught up with some cancer patients who said despite challenges, the hospital staff had been awesome and working overtime to ensure they receive treatment.
Ms Angela Makore (45) from Triangle said she started her treatment two weeks ago and was feeling at home in Bulawayo.
“The radiotherapists are doing their best to ensure we are comfortable and I am glad to say when I came here, I could not walk or talk but because of their care I am feeling a lot better,” said Ms Makore.
“Government should stop buying Ford Rangers and buy machines for every provincial hospital so that we do not travel all the way from Masvingo to Bulawayo for radiotherapy.”
Ms Makore said Government should prioritise the lifesaving machines as the lives of many patients on the waiting list are under threat.
“We only have one working machine and it will soon break down because it is overwhelmed. The whole country is coming to Mpilo,” she said.
A nurse from Harare Ms Nyengeterai Dziva said she had just started her cancer treatment and will be in Bulawayo for the next seven weeks.
“Cancer medication is very expensive and as a nurse I have to raise more than US$250 for my treatment weekly. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, I had to be driven by a relative which means extra transport costs,” said Ms Dziva.
She also called on the Government to avail more machines so that patients do not travel long distances to seek treament. — @thamamoe .