The closure of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital since April due to fire damage is creating a health crisis in Gauteng. As reported by Mandy Wiener on News24, “two other hospitals have been hit by water shortages…the provincial health system is at breaking point and it cannot go on.”
Zodwa Sithole, Head of Advocacy for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) says: “We’re being inundated by calls from desperate people whose families can no longer access the care that they need from Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. We’re in contact with Provincial Government, however there needs to be more assistance to meet the needs of both cancer patients and patients who are not able to do their cancer screening. Patients are anxious as they experiencing delays in their treatment and many need assistance with pain management, stoma and wound care.”
“People have been left in the lurch and we’re doing our best to assist,” says Jacqui Kaye, CEO of HospiceWits. “HospiceWits, in Houghton and in Soweto, have had quite a few calls for support for patients from the Charlotte Maxeke. Most of these patients are non-malignant cases looking for help and support and even medication. These are not really Hospice cases. The families become desperate and are in need of medical support. We have probably registered about five oncology patients who were having treatment at the hospital, mostly for homecare. Most of the oncology patients have had to be referred to the Helen Joseph or Baragwaneth Hospital in Soweto. For HospiceWits the non-malignant cases are more of a concern as they are not receiving the help that they need.”
Palliative care has been highlighted over the last year, as it is the holistic treatment of life-threatening disease diagnoses and therefore applied to complicated Covid-19 infections. Says Ewa Skowronska, CEO of Hospice Palliative Care Association: “We all know that the acceleration of access to palliative care should be a huge priority in South Africa. The situation in Gauteng is highlighting the need for more resource to be supplied to the palliative care sector; particularly those sectors that provide their services free of charge to those who cannot afford treatment.”
Says Brenda Bisschoff, Administration Manager at Hospice East Rand: “The closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital is having a dreadful impact on cancer patients. The physical and emotional effect of not being able to access their treatment is taking a toll on their already weakened immune systems. Patients are also not able to fill their prescriptions and pain control becomes a major issue. We are struggling to get medical reports completed by Charlotte Maxeke Hospital doctors for patients requesting palliative care from our organisation and this is severely hampering their access to our care. It is a dire situation and compounds the negative effect of patients already trying to cope with a potentially life-threatening illness.”
Concludes Skowronska: “With support, we can make sure that every South African who is facing life threatening illness can access the care that they need. The current situation in Gauteng is an unacceptable one. Human lives are at risk and human suffering is not receiving the attention it deserves. We urge anyone that needs palliative care help to access hospice via our website and we urge the South African Government to prioritise resource allocation to the palliative care sector as a whole.”
If you or your family needs help, please find your closest hospice by visiting https://hpca.co.za/province/gauteng/.
CANSA: Visit www.cansa.org.za or call CANSA Help Desk toll-free 0800 22 66 22 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to online resources and Facebook support groups, CANSA offers multi-lingual support on WhatsApp: 072 197 9305 for English and Afrikaans and 071 867 3530 for isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana and free Tele Counselling per appointment on 0800 22 66 22 in English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana. For media queries, please contact Lucy Balona on 082 459 5230
HospiceWits: They are willing and able to register oncology patients with hospitals where appropriate and offer Palliative support – call (011) 483 9100.
Hospice East Rand: They are willing and able to offer Palliative support to patients residing on the East Rand. Hospice does not offer chemo or radiation treatments, for these, registration with a hospital can be facilitated – call (011) 422 1531.
If you are able to assist hospice, please donate by visiting: https://hpca.co.za/donate/. Please include the reference GAUTENG CRISIS.