THOUSANDS of cancer patients in Zimbabwe are at risk as the country has no functional radiotherapy machine.
The five at the two cancer units in the country located at Mpilo Central and Parirenyatwa hospitals have been down for some months now.
Mpilo last offered radiotherapy in November last year which forced patients to travel to Harare.
However one of the three working machines in Harare has since broken down leaving patients stranded.
Radiotherapy treatment uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours and it also damages the DNA within cancer cells.
Officials said repairs will cost US$63 000 for the machine at Mpilo while the one at Parirenyatwa needs US$60 000.
The Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo could not be reached for comment but last week during a tour at Mpilo, he said all was in place to restore the service.
“We are happy that there is progress to install the uninterrupted power supply batteries as a long term solution to the problem because most of these breakdowns are due to power cuts. The contractors said they would not do anything until the installation and there is progress towards the reintroduction of radiotherapy,” said Dr Moyo.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) called on the Ministry to urgently attend to the breakdown of radiotherapy machines at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo hospitals.
In a statement, the ZADHR said the breakdowns were causing great danger to cancer patients countrywide.
“ZADHR is reliably informed that the radiotherapy machines have been out of service for almost a month posing a great danger to cancer patients countrywide. The two radiotherapy centres are the only government facilities that offer such specialist oncology services in the country although the Mpilo hospital machines are rarely functional,” read the statement.
ZADHR said that cancer patients are being denied their right to healthcare as provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe through section 76.
“Clinically, delays or interruptions in accessing radiotherapy sessions may result in tumour cell repopulation and can also require that restaging of the tumours be done when normal service resumes. This is both costly to the health system as a whole and provides harmful treatment bottlenecks to cancer patients,” read the statement.
According to ZADHR the delays are increasing out of pocket health expenditures and consequently household poverty as patients seek care in private but costly alternatives.
“The right to palliative care is entwined to the right to health and we condemn the psychological trauma cancer patients are made to go through during these episodes,” the organisation said.