The Gauteng Health Department says the launch of the new oncology facility at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital (DGMAH) in Ga-Rankuwa, Tshwane, will improve access to cancer treatment.
"I cannot contain my excitement at the launch of this much needed biomedical equipment because to us, patient care and safety will always come first and today's launch of the first-of-its kind PET-CT imaging system in Africa serves as a testimony of our unreserved commitment to improve patient care.
"At a cost and investment of R36 million, the facility brings advanced oncology care to patients with a new leading-edge oncology diagnostics facility that harnesses multiple technologies to provide high-quality data quickly," said Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa on Monday.
The GDMAH serves a 1.7 million population catchment area, which includes Bojanala District in the North West province and Limpopo province.
MEC Ramokgopa said the launch will mark the beginning of the end of suffering to the majority of cancer patients, who used to be referred to Steve Biko Academic Hospital (SBAH) for appropriate PET-CT scan diagnostics prior to specific treatment for their type of malignancy.
"This was less than ideal because the overloading of SBAH resulted in tremendously long queues and delays, which impacted negatively on effective patient management. For instance, in 2010 SBAH, saw 12 000 patients per annum in their unit and in 2016, that figure had doubled to 24 000. This clearly shows that the demand for cancer treatment is increasing," said MEC Ramokgopa.
Oncology facility puts focus on patients
The oncology facility is fitted with a new machine, which includes an advanced Philips Ingenuity TF PET/CT- a nuclear imaging technique that combines positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) to evaluate the structure and function of cells and body tissue.
This advanced PET-CT solution offers a variety of patient-specific methods and tools to facilitate optimal management of both image quality and radiation dose, which allows practitioners to truly focus on each patient's specific needs.
"The system was installed in June 2017, and has already helped guide decision-making for early diagnosis and assessment of treatment efficacy for over 105 patients. We are thrilled with the results and the level of care we are able to provide our people with world-class technology," said the Head of Nuclear Medicine at DGMAH, Dr Trevor Mdaka.
More than 100 000 South Africans are diagnosed with cancer annually. Top cancers amongst women are breast, cervical and colorectal. Amongst men there are prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.
According to the department, many patients referred for PET suffer from anxiety, which has been found to affect the image quality and often result in a false positive, which impacts the diagnosis and quality of care.
"To address this challenge, the new solution transforms the experience by customising both the uptake and scanning room to create a comfortable and calming environment for patients by using technology as a positive distraction in a time it's needed most," said MEC Ramokgopa.
The immersive, multi-sensorial experience can lead to greater involvement from patients in their own therapy, reduced anxiety and increased comfort, contribute to higher patient satisfaction, and even a possible reduction in procedure time.
"In today's complex care environment, delivering high quality critical care demands new approaches and thinking. We know that there are no simple solutions to the complex realities associated with oncology care, which is why innovation drives us to push the boundaries that are standing in the way of organising healthcare around the patient to deliver better outcomes," said Philips Southern Africa CEO, Ntutule Tshenye.
"The newly acquired facility will go a long way in contributing towards effective diagnosis and management of the patients, improve the training and production of healthcare professionals, as well as sustain efforts to improve medical research for the benefit of finding solutions to the burden of disease in our communities.
"Creating access to the latest technology will not only create a more efficient environment for our doctors, but it also offers enhanced healthcare service delivery, and capacity for specialist training to render the department competitive in cancer research, innovation and development of effective treatment modalities for cancer," said MEC Ramokgopa.