Military hospital takes a bullet after CT scanner goes missing in action
Crucial machine has been broken for some time, and the hospital can't perform biopsies either
From the outside, 2 Military Hospital is a gem bordering a vineyard and with Table Mountain soaring in the background.
But a Cape Town family says a lack of crucial health equipment means the Wynberg hospital is a blot on the healthcare landscape.
The hospital has been without a CT scanner for about a year, and cannot perform biopsies – two capabilities that the South African Medical Association (Sama) says should be standard in training facilities such as military hospitals.
Jade van Niekerk, of Grassy Park, took her ailing father – a 72-year-old ex-navy employee who does not want to be identified – to 2 Military at the beginning of January.
Almost a month after an X-ray showed suspected cancerous lesions on his lungs, he was still waiting for confirmatory tests from a private hospital. Van Niekerk said 2 Military told her it relied on private hospitals for biopsies.
“I don’t have issues with the level of care – in fact I think they have one of the greatest medical staff – but doctors can only do so much without equipment,” she said.
“What kind of specialist hospital doesn’t have a CT scanner? From our experience so far it looks like everything is outsourced. We had to wait 11 days for Pretoria to authorise a biopsy ... which, in my opinion, should be provided by the facility a lot sooner, particularly for a patient that is suspected of having cancer.”
Van Niekerk said the long wait had fuelled the family’s anxiety. “It’s not fair on my dad to wait for so long before he knows what’s wrong with him ... it’s not fair to any of us as we are all anxious,” she said.
2 Military is one of three such hospitals reserved for members of the armed forces and their families, foreign dignitaries and senior politicians, including the president and his deputy.
South African National Defence Force spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini confirmed the CT scanner at the Cape Town hospital had been broken for “a while”.
“There is a process under way to either fix the broken CT scanner or purchase a new one. These options will be determined by the availability of funds,” he said.
In the meantime, patients who needed a scan were being taken to other hospitals.
Sama chairperson Angelique Coetzee said if Van Niekerk’s claims about 2 Military were true, it would be “bad news” for a teaching hospital.
“Not only must it be frustrating for medical staff to work in such an environment, but it’s bad for patient outcomes too. In a case of a patient with suspected lung cancer it’s even more concerning. The longer you wait, the more likely it is for cancer to spread,” she said.
Coetzee said lung cancer was generally one of the fastest-growing cancers, and even a few weeks of waiting could be detrimental to a patient’s health. In the private sector it took between 24 and 72 hours at most to get biopsy results after a scan, she said.
“From a financial point of view, hiring services must be very expensive ... much more expensive than buying a new scanner. It’s a lot of inconvenience to the patient, who is supposed to receive treatment under one roof. The next question is, will the hospital be able to treat the patient properly if they don’t even have basic things such as the scanner and pathology services?”
Dlamini said outsourcing services proved to be “too expensive, hence the need to address the matter urgently by either purchasing a new scanner or fixing the existing one”.