Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo, the only referral hospital that offers radiotherapy services in the southern region of Zimbabwe, is facing a shortage of specialist paediatric cardiology surgeons and functional cancer therapy machines. The hospital management revealed this yesterday during a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, which visited the institution to assess its challenges.
According to Mpilo director of operations Mr Joel Charangwa, the hospital has only one specialist in paediatric cardiology, who is not trained to perform surgical operations. As a result, many children with heart conditions are referred to other facilities that are far away and costly. He said the hospital urgently needed more specialist clinicians and equipment to address the issue.
Mr Charangwa also said the hospital needed about US$80 000 to repair its radiotherapy machines, which have been breaking down frequently. He said many cancer patients were turned away or had to wait for long periods to receive treatment. He appealed to the Government to intervene and provide funding for the machines, which are vital for saving lives.
The Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, led by Dr Ruth Labode, expressed concern over the situation and promised to engage the Ministry of Health to find solutions. Dr Labode said she was saddened by the fact that many children were dying of treatable heart diseases and that many cancer patients were suffering due to lack of adequate equipment. She said the Government should prioritise capacitating hospitals and clinics with child-friendly infrastructure, equipment and human resources.
She also commended the Government for putting in place several measures to tackle the cancer burden in the country, such as introducing the human papillomavirus vaccine against cervical cancer, screening, early diagnosis and treatment.