No cancer meds for children at PE Provincial

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

Children with cancer at the Provincial Hospital in Gqeberha cannot receive life-saving chemotherapy treatments because the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDoH) has not paid the supplier in full.

This is extremely traumatic for the children involved and heartbreaking for parents who have to watch their children dying in front of them. I am outraged by this Department’s heartless actions.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Head of the Department, Dr Rolene Wagner, to urge her to settle the outstanding R18 million balance with the service provider as a priority so that these critically ill children can receive proper care.

Asparaginase is a crucial chemotherapy drug for the treatment of children with cancer. Since the supplier closed the Department’s account due to non-payment, at least four children have relapsed because they have not received the necessary treatment.

In one critical case, a doctor sponsored medication to prevent a desperately ill child from dying. While we commend the dedication of these doctors and will remain eternally grateful for their efforts, it should never be that doctors have no support from the Department.

The Livingstone tertiary complex, including the Provincial and Dora Nginza hospitals, has not had a permanent Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for five years. While the Department insists that this post is busy being finalised, we will believe this when we see it.

Without a CEO to steer the ship, doctors have nobody to turn to for support and intervention when a medical crisis arises, such as shortages of critical medication and surgical supplies. They are expected to work miracles but have no tools of trade.

The CEO vacancy needs to be filled with a highly competent and suitably qualified expert as a matter of great urgency so that the myriad challenges the hospital complex is facing can be addressed and health service delivery can be stabilised.

Until the Department ring-fences funds to address risks such as medico-legal claims, which have sucked their budget dry, and settles their debts to pharmaceutical and medical suppliers, we will continue to pay for their debts with human lives.