By MELISA CHATIKOBO
ZIMBABWEAN authorities have come under renewed pressure to equip public hospitals with high-tech quipment for all life-threatening diseases, while also sourcing enough stocks of critical imported medicines.
Yesterday, people living with cancer approached Parliament where they left a petition imploring legislators to push the government to equip public hospitals with functioning radiotherapy machines.
In addition, they also demanded that the Health ministry explains why there are regular breakdowns of radiotherapy machines at the country’s two biggest referral hospitals — Parirenyatwa in Harare and Mpilo in Bulawayo.
Presenting the petition before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Health and Childcare, cancer patient Nyasha Mpame said the diagnostic and treatment infrastructure of cancer in Zimbabwe was inadequate.
“I am not a medical specialist, but my condition has forced me to research extensively and I am acutely aware of a number of limitations that the country faces with regards to cancer diagnosis, treatment and management.
“The entire country does not even have a single positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which is the most suitable diagnostic and staging equipment for solid tumours.
“The available computerised tomography (ICT) scanners are few and expensive for cancer patients who need regular scans to monitor treatment progress and disease spread,” Mpame said.
“The radiotherapy machines which are available at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo are constantly breaking down … So, there is no working radiotherapy machine in public health care,” she added.
Mpame also said most cancer patients in the country were dying because they were failing to import needed drugs.
“The cost of cancer treatment is very high and beyond the reach of most patients, including some basic pain medication which is very critical in the advanced stages of cancer.
“Unfortunately, because most patients are diagnosed in late stages of cancer, pain medication tends to be the drug of priority for them.
“Some treatment regimens are not available locally and some patients who can pool a bit of resources have to pay in foreign currency to import these drugs, something which could be avoided if the Ministry of Health and Childcare allocates funds towards the importation of these critical medications,” Mpame said.
“Further, many cancer patients travel to other countries, notably South Africa and India, for treatment, bleeding Zimbabwe of much needed foreign currency due to lack of investment in cancer infrastructure and equipment.
“I have personally experienced the above difficulties and situations and have observed and interacted with many,” she said further.
In response, committee chairperson Ruth Labode assured the petitioners that Parliament would look into the matter urgently.
“The problems should be looked into … We are pleased that you have decided to speak on behalf of the people.
“What is going to happen now is we are going to call the Health ministry and doctors from Parirenyatwa and Mpilo hospitals.
“The committee is also going to visit the two centres at Mpilo and Parirenyatwa to see for ourselves and bring the matter to Parliament and demand action,” Labode said.
All this comes as Global Cancer Observatory data shows that Zimbabwe reported 16 083 new cases of cancer and 10 676 deaths due to the disease in 2020.
The most frequently reported cancers in the country during that year included those of the cervix, breast and prostate. – Daily News