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Friday, July 12, 2024

Parirenyatwa radiotherapy unit resumes operations

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ radiotherapy unit has resumed operations after a lengthy two-and-a-half-year shutdown due to the breakdown of machines.

With private hospitals charging exorbitant fees which range from US$5 000 to US$10 000 for 25 radiotherapy sessions, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Radiotherapy Unit is the only source of hope for cancer patients in Zimbabwe.

“We are now getting radiotherapy services. I started getting radiotherapy services when they opened last week. My request to the government is to add more machines because we have a lot of people suffering from cancer who require radiotherapy services,” said a patient, Kudakwashe Mbuva.

Another patient, Ruth Dakwa said, “It’s now three years since I started getting cancer treatment, now that machines are up and running, I am now getting radiotherapy treatment. Our request is to get affordable medication, but we are happy that the machines are now functional. It’s been two years since the doctor told me to get radiotherapy services. At a private hospital, I was given a US$5 000 bill which I could not afford. Here my bills are being paid by the government since I am under social welfare, and I am grateful.”

“I started my treatment on the 11th of March. So, this is my first time to get radiotherapy done. I am happy that the machines are now working, and we can get the services at affordable prices,” added a patient, Pamhidzai Zaranyika.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals head of Radiology Department, Dr Nothando Mutizira confirmed the reopening of the unit, adding that the other two machines are expected to be operational soon to enable the unit to operate at full capacity.

“We are very excited that our radiotherapy machines have been fixed and so far, we have one machine which is up and running. It started running two weeks ago, so we have been gradually adding patients to this machine as you know, our machines have been down for over two and a half years. While all cancers are a priority, we are triaging our patients and putting them on the machine based on urgency. We are booking our patients as they come but if there are patients with urgent conditions and they need to be put on the machine urgently, those who are more stable are booked and given a date as to when they can come for their treatment.

“So far, we have 10 patients, today who are on the machine. We hope to add another machine this week and we will add six patients per week as we go. When the department is functioning at its peak, we normally have about 60 patients on radiotherapy per day now, we have not yet saturated our machine and hope to do that right away so that we don’t overwhelm the machine and our staff,” said Dr Mutizira.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care played a critical role in securing a three-year service contract for the machines.

“Given this long downtime we have experienced over this last season, the Ministry of Health and Child Care secured a service contract for these machines and this service contract runs for three years. The aim of having a service contract is to reduce downtime when the machines breakdown, we know that any issues can be addressed timeously,” added Dr Mutizira.

Radiotherapy machines are used to treat a wide variety of cancers including brain, breast, lung, and prostate cancer.

The machines can be used in combination with other ways of treating cancer such as surgery and chemotherapy.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, cancer remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality, with more than five thousand new cases diagnosed annually and over 1 500 deaths per year.

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