Cancer curse KZN style

23 June 2017 - 05:30 By KATHARINE CHILD
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Murray Alva-Wright
Murray Alva-Wright

Murray Alva-Wright has a two-year-old daughter and it is only thinking of her that keeps him alive, he says.

The 41-year-old Pietermaritzburg man has prostate cancer that has spread to his lymph nodes and lower back.

Sometimes the cancer in his back causes such pain that he struggles to get out of bed. Sometimes he feels too depressed to get up.

He was diagnosed with stage three prostate cancer two days before Christmas in 2014. The cancer has metastasised, spreading malignant cells to the rest of his body.

Alva-Wright relies on state healthcare - but it is not working well in KwaZulu-Natal.

Since October all of Durban's six public-sector oncologists have quit. Radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital have been broken for years.

Now there are only two oncologists working for the state in the province, both in Pietermaritzburg. This has led to a five-month wait at best before a patient can been seen by one of them, said the SA Human Rights Commission.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said yesterday that the Treasury was applying to take over all supply-chain management functions in the provincial health department and was attempting to ensure that contracts relating to the purchase and maintenance of medical equipment and drugs were in place.

The Treasury and the auditor-general have noted major irregularities in the awarding of tenders, the supplying of medicines and the maintenance of equipment in the province. The Treasury is said to be investigating at least one "suspicious" tender award for the maintenance of equipment used in the treatment of cancer.

Lengthy waits for appointments with doctors allowed cancer to spread, making the disease less treatable.

The HRC recommended last week that all radiotherapy equipment be repaired and asked the premier to say within 10 days whether MEC for health Sibongiseni Dhlomo was fulfilling his responsibility of ensuring that cancer patients received adequate treatment.

Since February 2015, Alva-Wright has not been able to get chemotherapy tablets because they have not been in stock. There has also been no pain medication. Alva-Wright said the pain in his spine was excruciating.

He has been forced to resort to buying his own pain medication and oral chemotherapy, costing R2500 a month.

"Where do the billions the department of health gets go to?"

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