Friday, 16 April 2021


THE recently resuscitated radiotherapy machine at Mpilo Central Hospital which started working on Tuesday may not last as incessant power cuts being experienced in the city have left the department’s Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) down.

Bulawayo suffered yet another power blackout following a fault caused by a power surge on Monday evening.

Mpilo’s radiotherapy department was hit hard as the power cut left the delicate UPS system down, putting more than 200 cancer patients at risk.

The hospital resumed radiotherapy services on Tuesday following Government’s intervention which resulted in the deployment of a physicist, a month after machines that had broken down were fixed.

From August last year, Mpilo had been unable to cater for cancer patients from the Southern region following the breakdown of its machines.

Last month, Government paid €50 000 for servicing and the machines were fixed but could not be run as the hospital had no physicist.

Radiotherapy is the use of radioactive rays to kill cancer cells and/or shrink the growth. Delays in accessing radiotherapy often lead to cancer cells spreading in one’s body thereby lessening the patient’s chances of survival.

Mpilo acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said they experienced five power cuts while a patient was on the radiotherapy machine.

He said although the Government has used about US$100 000 for the UPS, without power, it is useless.

Prof Ngwenya said incessant power cuts may eventually cost the hospital the only radiotherapy machine available for people in the Southern region worth about US$1,4 million.

He said the state-of-the-art machine was ever down and the major causes of the breakdowns were linked to power outages.

“Radiotherapy machines are very expensive and people should understand that we use this machine for the region which should cater for more than six million people. There are about 200 people awaiting treatment at the moment but with these incessant power cuts they may not even access as this machine may break down,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“We have since engaged foreign engineers because there is some software involved as well in this whole mess. Mpilo used to have separate power lines which ensured we always had power but now despite the critical services we offer, we also suffer power cuts even for days unfortunately, generators cannot run these delicate machines.”

Prof Ngwenya called on Zesa to consider separating the public institution from other lines so that lives are saved in the event of power cuts.

The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe information, research and evaluation officer Mr Lovemore Makurirofa said the constant delays and breakdowns were very costly to cancer patients.

“Patients should receive early treatment before it spreads, it should be done urgently as delays can lead to progression of cancer. It also creates anxiety on the patients that would have been booked for treatment, it exposes them to psychological trauma,” said Mr Makurirofa.

“It is not good for the patients to wait after they screen. It is very dangerous to their health. This is a lesson that we have learnt over time especially when it comes to the machines. The Ministry should really consider that and enter into service agreements to save money which must be paid every time the machine breaks down.”

He also suggested that Zimbabweans should come with a sustainable cancer fund to address the perennial break downs and the shortage of physicists.

“These funds can be used to cater for break down and any other service relating to cancer services. We need to consider a cancer levy because it is clear that cancer is less resourced despite its effects on our daily lives,” added Mr Makurirofa.

Acting Zesa western region manager Engineer Lloyd Jaji said the power cut was a result of broken cables which the parastatal is trying to fix.

He said the challenge was not man made and that once everything is fixed, services will return to normalcy.

“Our people are on the ground as we speak trying to fix the challenges which is a result of a burnt cable. We had to use testing equipment to locate the exact cable which was underground but we are working on restoring normalcy,” he said.- Chronicle


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