9 March 2023, Johannesburg – SECTION27 welcomes Gauteng Treasury’s decision to set aside R784 million to finance radiation oncology and surgery backlogs in Gauteng. As a result of tireless interventions by civil society organisations, Cancer Alliance, SECTION27, and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), in partnership with the Gauteng Treasury, the province will now, among other interventions, outsource radiation oncology services for patients on the waiting list to ensure prompt access to urgent health care services.
SECTION27, Cancer Alliance and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), have represented the needs of cancer patients who have not received radiation oncology services due to backlogs. In November 2021, the three organisations brought specific problems relating to radiation oncology at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital to the attention of the Gauteng Department of Health. In March 2022, Cancer Alliance, at its own cost, and with the approval of Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, commissioned the services of an independent consultant to locate and peruse the files of patients who needed radiation oncology services at the hospital and to prepare a waiting list of all those patients. At the end of this exercise, Cancer Alliance had determined that there were, at the time, approximately 3000 patients awaiting radiation oncology treatment, including patients suffering from prostate, breast, cervical and colon cancer. Their findings also revealed that these patients had been waiting for their treatment for over a year.
Provincial Treasury has been working alongside SECTION27 and Cancer Alliance, who have represented the needs of cancer patients to the Gauteng Department of Health to fight these backlogs.
Some of the main issues that contribute to the diminished radiation oncology services in the province, include shortages in both personnel and equipment. In March 2022, the Gauteng Department of Health established a cancer crisis task team with the aim of advising the Head of Department on the treatment of cancer patients in the province, overseeing concerns related to the Occupation Specific Dispensation of radiation oncology personnel, and advising on the procurement processes for cancer equipment. The task team considered various solutions to the issue, including further triage; rental of radiation machines; the appointment of additional personnel; operating the functional machines overtime; and the outsourcing of radiation oncology services.
After serious consideration of each of the options presented by the cancer crisis task team, it was resolved that outsourcing radiation oncology services is the only feasible and immediate short-term solution to assist the patients on the waiting list, with procurement of equipment and resolution of staff-related problems being priorities for the medium-term. However, the Gauteng Department of Health indicated that it did not have the finances necessary to outsource radiation oncology services. SECTION27 then reached out to the national and provincial treasury to determine whether there were any funds available for the realisation of this plan. Following several meetings with SECTION27 and Cancer Alliance and the Gauteng Department of Health, the provincial treasury devised a plan to ensure the outsourcing of radiation oncology services.
It is important to note that outsourcing these services is limited only to those already on the waiting list and is designed as a temporary strategy to assist the Gauteng Department of Health with the backlog in radiation oncology services.
Along with these efforts, the provincial treasury is working alongside the Gauteng Department of Health to expedite the procurement of outstanding radiation oncology machinery and equipment. The Cancer Alliance and SECTION27 continue to provide input and guidance to ensure the implementation of the outsourcing and procurement project to alleviate this human rights crisis and save the lives of people who have been waiting a long time for treatment.
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