‘I live in fear of dying’: Gauteng cancer patient on treatment waiting list for 16 months

23 November 2021 - 15:50
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Cancer patient Zuziwe Mdlulwa.
Cancer patient Zuziwe Mdlulwa.
Image: Belinda Pheto

“Sometimes I’m scared to sleep because I don’t know if I will wake up the next day.”

These were the chilling words of Zuziwe Mdlulwa, who on Tuesday said she had been on the cancer radiation treatment waiting list at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital for 16 months.

Mdlulwa was diagnosed with cancer in June 2019. She completed her chemotherapy treatment but said she had not had a single radiation treatment and had been on the waiting list since her diagnosis.

“Even the slightest headache makes one think of death. I don’t enjoy life because I live in fear of dying.”

Mdlulwa said despite being on the waiting list there was no indication from the hospital of when she would receive treatment.

“They tell me they will call me when my turn comes,” she said.

Mdlulwa was among the health activists who marched to the office of Gauteng premier David Makhura to hand over a memorandum of demands for better health services for cancer patients in the province.

The march was led by Cancer Alliance, Section27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

TAC provincial chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala said it was sad to see cancer patients dying before receiving treatment. She said health services had reached a crisis level.

“People don’t want to go to hospitals and clinics because of bad service. When they get there, they are given Panado. What will Panado do for a cancer patient?”

Tshabalala said health activists had been turned into unqualified nurses and doctors because patients came to them for help.

“They no longer want to go to hospitals because they see hospitals as mortuaries. They believe they will not come back alive.”

Salomé Meyer of the Cancer Alliance asked health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi to walk with activist groups if she wanted to see health services improve in the province. Meyer also asked the MEC to put together a task team to ensure the needs of cancer patients are addressed.  

“That team must be made up of experts who understand cancer and its treatments. We don’t want to see the same situation where cancer treatment equipment is bought but never gets to be used because people bought it like they are purchasing photocopying machines,” Meyer said.

According to Meyer, radiation equipment was bought for Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital but was in a storeroom because it can’t be used as there was no bunker for the machines.

“If those machines were working they could have eased so much pressure from Charlotte Maxeke,” she said.

Accepting the memorandum on behalf of Makhura, Mokgethi apologised to cancer patients for the long waiting lists and said her department was doing its best to render better services to cancer patients in Gauteng.

“To show we care, we have opened a comprehensive oncology unit at Bara and Charlotte Maxeke has started with palliative care,” Mokgethi told marchers.

She said the department was working on a plan to see more hospitals offer radiation treatment, as Charlotte Maxeke was the only one doing it in Johannesburg.


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