Health ministry secretary Jasper Chimedza yesterday revealed that Zimbabwe has only one functional cancer machine.
Chimedza made the remarks when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care led by Ruth Labode to speak on the country’s curative cancer care.
Radiotherapy machines are used to treat at least 50% of all cancer cases.
Chimedza said the only functional cancer machine in Zimbabwe is privately owned. NewsDay cites him as saying:
In the private sector, we have one of the facilities in Newlands which continues to offer cancer radiotherapy services to both the public and the private sectors. It is not an ideal situation whereby we have one machine working in the country. We need more cancer machines. Patients should not be travelling long distances to access cancer treatment. We need the machines at provincial hospitals.
The machines that we have are not outdated. What we need is software updates and a few areas that need to be attended to. But as part of our thrust as a ministry, we want to extend this service to provincial hospitals. The next phase in terms of procurement of radiotherapy machines is replacement of these machines at provincial hospitals so that patients do not keep on travelling from different provinces to access services.
We are earmarking that all the provincial hospitals will have cancer machines and also the upcoming Lupane Hospital has that provision as well to service patients in Matebeleland North.
Director of pathology services in the Health ministry Max Hove said medical equipment is manufactured outside Africa and this particular type of equipment is manufactured in Switzerland.
He added that engineers have to travel from Switzerland to come and look at the machines and evaluate them for servicing.
According to Global Cancer Observatory data, in 2020, Zimbabwe reported 16 083 new cases of cancer and 10 676 deaths due to the disease which commonly manifests as cervical, breast and prostate cancer.
The shortage of functioning radiotherapy machines for cancer treatment in Zimbabwe has led to long waiting lists and patients having to seek treatment abroad.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono raised awareness of this issue and alleged corruption in the procurement of a new machine. He was subsequently arrested on politically motivated charges. The situation remains a concern for many.
Some people from Zimbabwe have been going to other countries for cancer treatment because of limited medical resources, and a lack of specialized treatment options.
However, those with financial constraints find it expensive to go abroad.