State cancer patients are sent home to die

She also explained that a stepping stone to solving the current challenge would for government to have a national budget – similar to what was done with HIV/AIDS – which would be spread equally across the provinces.

“Currently budgets are allocated to the provinces and they can determine how they allocate their budgets themselves and cancer care is not always their priority. This creates a gap in the services that provinces can provide to the community. There should be a procurement and tender process that is transparent, with the proper criteria and oncology experts involved to oversee the process and protocols”, she added.

In response to the SONA, a stakeholder meeting was hosted with the NGO sector of South Africa to discuss the need for a unified messaging to be used in the NCC. This step was welcomed, and a task team has been established and currently working on the work needed to produce this messaging. This according to Greeff is a huge step forward.

Referencing back to an article by The Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON) CEO, Jacques Snyman, in Business Day on the 25th July 2016 – Snyman highlighted that the possible part of the solution to tackling the challenges faced by the state would be more efficient partnerships between funders and healthcare services providers, and between the private and public sectors.

“ICON has managed to bridge the gap between patients, doctors and funders”, said Snyman. Some government departments have entered into partnerships with the private sector to help address the different challenges faced, most importantly to minimise patient disruption and ensuring continuity of care during machine breakdowns and/or repairs.

Case in point: a collaborative partnership between Livingstone Oncology Department in Port Elizabeth and ICON accredited Radiation Therapy Unit located in Cancercare’s Langenhoven Drive Oncology Centre in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth (August 2017). The partnership allowed for Livingstone Oncology Department to deliver radiation therapy to its patients uninterrupted in the Cancercare Radiation Unit while ensuring that the Livingstone Oncology Department radiation machines were being serviced to the highest standards.

More recently, a collaborative partnership was formed between the Frere Hospital in East London, Eastern Cape and the ICON accredited Border Oncology Unit, also from the Cancercare group. The currently ongoing agreement allows for private patients to receive ongoing radiotherapy after hours in the Frere Hospital while the Linear Accelerator in the Border Oncology Unit is being replaced. The agreement eliminated the inconvenience and possible added-cost to travelling to and staying near the next available unit in Port Elizabeth, with significant impact on the patients’ wellbeing and health.

Another successful partnership is a project in George between Cancercare Outeniqua Oncology Centre, Medical Specialist Holdings (MSH) and Groote Schuur Hospital where oncologists from the private sector in George facilitated treatment of oncology patients from the local George Provincial Hospital.

“The initiative to partner stemmed from George Provincial Hospital not having the radiotherapy treatment equipment needed on its premises and with no nearby state-owned treatment facility within a reasonable distance. Groote Schuur Hospital Oncology/Radiotherapy department head contacted MSH to initiate a partnership which has now been in place for about seven years, with possible extension for a further five years”, added Chris Salmon, the MSH Regional Business Manager in the Western Cape.

The few project partnerships and initiatives highlighted above is evidence that it is not all doom and gloom in state care. However, there is great room for more collaborative partnerships especially for the critical areas such as Gauteng and KZN.