State cancer patients are sent home to die

The article in the Sunday Times titled, “State cancer patients are sent home to die”, dated 13th May 2018, prompts a revisit of the great need for more Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as well as initiatives in the public-sector healthcare industry. Without overlooking the current challenges faced by government, it is good to also highlight the steps that have been taken to address the challenges of machine breakdowns thus causing cancer treatment backlog and the increasing need for qualified staff resources.

The Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi has spoken out about the need to make healthcare available to all regardless of the socioeconomic status. And most recently, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced at the SONA of intention by government to fight cancer by mobilising all resources possible. This had led to the creation of the National Cancer Campaign (NCC), a three months campaign; similar to the HIV/AIDS and TB campaigns - to name a few that have been actioned before – to address the cancer treatment backlog.

Linda Greeff, the Chairperson of the Cancer Alliance added that, “We welcome the President’s declaration at the SONA, however, we must bear in mind that while we prompt people to start being aware of the early signs of cancer detection, we must also ensure that the staff, infrastructure and capability is in place to provide immediate treatment after detection/diagnosis”.

Greeff further explained that, the state is faced with challenges of not having enough qualified staff available due to oncologists moving to the private sector because of the frustrations of service conditions, environment and poor equipment in some parts of the country. To tackle this big problem, we need an innovative model of care that will meet the needs of cancer patients in South Africa. We would like to call for a specialist stakeholder meeting where clinical heads of state oncology departments meet with leaders in the private oncology settings across South Africa to discuss what innovation in oncology should look like in future. This will pave an ideal way to develop a National Health Initiative (NHI) model of care of oncology in South Africa that is much needed.

“The Public Private Partnership in George is a good example that works well. We must develop an innovative model that will ensure that the PPPs created provide good quality, affordable and protocol driven cancer treatment. If there was more comprehensive collaboration between state and the private sector, we could create a model of care that could deal with cancer in South Africa adequately and these services could be equitable, cost effective, protocol driven, and evidence based”, according to Greeff.

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