By Charndré Emma Kippie


A truly momentous occasion in the history of public healthcare, has just occured in the province of Mpumalanga: the region’s cancer patients rejoice as they no longer have to embark on long journeys to Gauteng to receive cancer-related medical attention.


Combating Cancer 

The Mpumalanga Department of Health (DoH) officially opened the province’s first oncology centre at the end of last month. The new oncology unit will be housed at the Rob Ferreira Hospital, based in the Nelspruit area. At the official launch of this unit, the MEC for health in Mpumalanga, Sasekani Manzini, commented that the facility will assist in easing the burden of travelling for medical care. 


In previous years, local cancer patients needed to travel to Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Gauteng (about 300km away) to receive treatment. With the onset of the pandemic, this extensive travel for medical attention poses a major risk as cancer patients already manage their comorbidities in the face of the Covid-19 virus. Thus, the opening of this medical practice brings some relief and peace of mind. 


Access to better healthcare 

“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, with increasing numbers of people dying of cancer-related causes. In South Africa, deaths due to this disease represent approximately 9% of all deadly illnesses among adults”, said Sasekani Manzini.


“Access to healthcare is often associated with socio-economic status, insurance status and geographic location, with black Africans, poor, uninsured and rural residents experiencing the greatest barriers. Efforts to restructure the public health sector post-1994 have yielded marked successes in achieving improved access to care, rationalising health systems, improved health outcome indicators and equitable healthcare expenditure.”


The launch of Mpumalanga’s first ever oncology unit was made a reality by a partnership between the Department of Health (DoH) and Wits University. Back in 2018, the Mpumalanga DoH and Wits’ faculty of health sciences approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU)in which they both committed to a progressive partnership geared towards improving the province’s health services.


MEC Manzini also indicated that one of the main priorities within this MoU was making sure that oncology services be provided within the region.


“We will be the first ones to admit that more still needs to be done to improve access to specialist services in Mpumalanga, but we have turned the tide on the public health sector’s oncology in the province”, she said. 


“Building tertiary services in a rural province like ours requires patience and diligence. We can once more recommit to our people that the department is on track towards improving access to specialist services and returning back the dignity of our people.


“Mpumalanga is still sending patients requiring radiation therapy to Steve Biko Academic Hospital, but we can report that plans to establish radiation oncology services are at an advanced stage and once this is established all patients will be diagnosed and treated in the province,” Manzini concluded. 


Most Common Cancer Cases in SA:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer 
  • Colorectal Cancer 



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