Too few oncologists left in KZN to train new cancer specialists

25 June 2017 - 14:09 By Katharine Child
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Cancer cells.
Cancer cells.
Image: Thinkstock

There are no longer enough oncologists in KwaZulu-Natal to train new doctors to become cancer specialists.

The provincial health department has had broken radiology equipment for at least two years‚ endured medicine shortages and now all six oncologists in Durban have quit the state sector.

The SA Medical Association said the oncologists left in frustration at not being able to treat patients.

There are now only two oncologists working in the province — based in Pietermaritzburg.

The walkout of oncology specialists leaves 10 doctors in Durban‚ who are training to be oncologists‚ unable to continue with their training.

There are only 180 radiotherapy oncologists and 30 medical oncologists in the country.

It takes four to five years to become a specialist oncologist. Trainees‚ known as registrars‚ work in smaller hospitals improving services in the province. They are paid by the state.

Wits Professor of Oncology and deputy chair of the ministerial advisory board on cancer‚ Professor Paul Ruff‚ said: "The absence of specialists at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban will make their registrar training programme null and void."

Campaigning for Cancer spokesperson Lauren Pretorius said: "In a country that already has a shortage of doctors to lose the mentors to train the next generation of oncologists‚ is making an already dire situation worse. There is no coming back from this."

The University of KwaZulu-Natal said it had not lost accreditation for its undergraduate medical degree.

UKZN spokesman Normah Zindo said: "Accreditation for Radiology on the Durban campus has been temporarily suspended." But training continued via consultants at the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan complex of hospitals.

"Our students are important to us and we have acted swiftly to ensure that their careers and futures are secured. We are in the process of finalising arrangements and the Registrars are being kept informed via regular meetings‚" said Zondo.

The Health Professions Council of SA did not answer questions about how the cancer training programme at the university would continue with no employed oncologists in Durban.

The South African Human rights commission has called for all cancer equipment in the province to be repaired urgently.

- TimesLIVE

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