by Isak Fritz, MPL – DA Spokesperson of Health
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Date: 01 August 2018
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape will report the lack of access to crucial breast cancer screening services at the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington, to National Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Four years after the state of the art facility was officially opened by Motsoaledi, the Northern Cape Health Department has still not procured a mammography machine for the regional hospital. This is a serious service delivery failure that threatens the health of women living in the province’s rural areas.
According to the Marie Stopes organisation, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among South African women, with one in 31 women diagnosed in her lifetime.
Mammograms are a screening tool that allow for early detection, which enables efficient treatment and the best chance at recovery. It is thus disturbing that the provincial health department has still not allocated R1 million for the procurement of a mammography machine for the Upington hospital. As a result, a limited number of patients are transported 400 kilometers to Kimberley Hospital, once a week for screening.
When Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, officially opened the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in October 2014, he said state of-the-art hospitals in small towns and rural areas are expected to attract skilled doctors and medical students and have world-class equipment and technology.
To the contrary, however, chronic financial mismanagement and bad budgeting by the Health Department, have resulted in a shortage of health professionals and equipment at the Upington hospital.
The DA will write to Motsoaledi during Women’s Month, asking him for an intervention to ensure that cancer services at the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital, especially the procurement of a mammography machine, is prioritized.
Breast cancer can be beaten, but that early detection is key. Women should have access to mammograms without having to travel long distances, especially when most women from rural areas cannot afford to travel 400km for a screening.
Only change under a DA government, that understands that cancer patients don’t have time to waste, will ensure that cancer detection and treatment become a government priority in the Northern Cape and also that more attention is given to the provision of transport for patients at risk, to and from specialized hospitals or clinics where mammography is available.