Mpumalanga Health MEC Sasekani Manzini this week officially launched oncology services at the Rob Ferreira public hospital, in Mbombela.
The oncology unit is expected to provide safe cancer care at a public hospital within the province.
“We have identified a need for an oncology treatment centre offering chemotherapy services within Rob Ferreira Hospital, which is one of the two tertiary hospitals in the province. The launch marks the beginning of a new era for the majority of cancer patients who used to travel a long distance to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in Gauteng, which is more than 300 km away.
"With the launch of the oncology services, we have partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand and we hope to transform the future of patients in Mpumalanga. Working with a dedicated team of oncologists and other key partners like Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Cancer Association of South Africa and Right to Care, we will drive the change that the community needs in terms of cancer care through continual learning, creative thinking and collective desire to positively impact the lives of every person touched by cancer," the MEC said.
She asserted that it was "of the utmost importance" to start establishing sub-specialty health services in the province.
“The aim is to minimise the province’s dependency on Gauteng, as this further retards the province’s ability to carry its mandate to provide comprehensive services to the people of Mpumalanga. Currently, patients who need oncology services are referred to various hospitals outside the province at great expense and inconvenience to the patients and their families," she said.
She added that the provincial health department was planning to start providing oncology services at other public hospitals in Mpumalanga.
"A fully equipped oncology unit will be incorporated in the business case for the new tertiary hospital, in Witbank, which will be able to provide a full package of oncology services, including in-house radiation therapy," Manzini pointed out.
Meanwhile, oncologist Dr Nokwanda Zuma explained that the day ward at the Rob Ferreira Hospital was currently being used to treat cancer patients. The hospital's old rehabilitation centre is being renovated to serve as the oncology ward and will have 12 beds.
The hospital has already taken delivery of some of the equipment needed for the treatment of cancer patients, with further equipment to be delivered in due course.
"A database for the cancer patients has been developed to establish a baseline and in-patients with suspected cancer have been referred to the oncology unit for assessment," said Zuma.