KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.  Picture: SOWETAN
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Picture: SOWETAN

Embattled KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has responded to the South African Human Rights Commission’s damning report on the shocking state of oncology services in the province.

However, the commission has declined to divulge details of Dhlomo’s response — who is facing calls for his removal as the provincial head of health — pending legal verification.

Commission spokeswoman Gail Smith said that while the commission welcomed receiving Dhlomo’s response by its deadline‚ it was still "extremely concerned about the oncology patients at Addington Hospital as well as the patients at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, who are still awaiting radiotherapy treatment — some of whom have been waiting up to seven months".

The 68-page report — released last month — states that the department has failed its cancer patients‚ poses a serious threat to their lives, and is denying them their right to life and human dignity‚ among other findings.

The investigation by the commission followed a complaint lodged by the DA’s Dr Imran Keeka — a member of the provincial legislature — in February last year.

He complained that a dire staffing crisis in oncology specialists and other medical staff‚ coupled with insufficient and non-functioning oncology machines and delays in treating patients adversely affected cancer patients in the province.

The commission recommended that KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu investigate Dhlomo’s role in the current oncology crisis. Interviews with patients and staff at the affected hospital revealed an increase in the incidence and prevalence of cancer conditions in the province‚ and that, on average, patients wait for about five months before they can be seen by an oncologist and about eight months for radiotherapy.

This means they are unable to detect cancer at an early stage or delay its progression‚ despite World Health Organisation findings on the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

The commission has given Dhlomo until July 28 to submit additional information it requires. The department did not respond to requests for comment.

At the time the report was released‚ Keeka said: "We expect nothing but denials‚ obfuscation and more failures of accountability‚ as this is the pattern set in stone in the ANC government."

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