‘No crisis’ at state hospital despite acute oncologist shortage
Cancer patients have to wait for up to four months for radiation treatment, but CEO dismisses it as ‘a concern’
Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital is so desperate for radiation oncologists that CEO Gladys Bogoshi even asked journalists if they knew anyone who wanted to work for the government.
At a media event on Thursday, Bogoshi said two out of five posts for radiation oncologists were vacant at the state hospital, but denied there was a crisis.
She was responding to reports of long waiting lists for cancer radiation treatment, old machines that break down often, and a shortage of radiation oncology staff.
She said the vacancies existed despite the hospital advertising for the positions in international journals and on “social media”.
The hospital has more than 3,130 cancer patients and only three full-time radiation oncologists.Bogoshi even asked journalists if they knew of radiation oncologists who wanted to work for the government.
“If you know any let us know ... they are very rare commodity. We have tried everything.”
But Bogoshi said the shortage of specialists was “not a crisis as the three doctors were trying their best” by working until 8pm at night to see all the patients.
“Is it a crisis? No. Is it a concern? Yes.”
Her comments came as Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi this week said the health system was “distressed”.
The Sunday Times reported in April on a long backlog of patients waiting for radiation. Campaigning for Cancer oncologist Devan Moodley told the newspaper that the likelihood of cancer returning was high if radiation treatment was administered too late.
Bogoshi said the waiting list for prostate cancer treatment was 24 months, although more urgent cases are seen more quickly. The waiting period for radiation for breast cancer is between four to six months. A Johannesburg state patient will have to wait up to four months to receive radiation treatment for gynaecological cancers such as cervical cancer.
But Bogoshi denied that this was a “backlog”, arguing that patients did get other treatments such as medication, surgery or chemotherapy – or, in case of prostate cancer, hormonal therapy.