Uganda: Cancer Machine Closed for Servicing

30 September 2019

The cobalt-60 teletherapy machine, used for the treatment of cancer, at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has been closed awaiting servicing.

For the past two weeks, patients seeking radiation treatment at the UCI have been treated after the Cobalt 60 radiotherapy machine closed down.

According to Christine Namulindwa, the institute's public relations officer, the machine was closed down awaiting an engineer from the International Atomic Energy Agency to service it.

According to a notice to patients, it was mentioned that services were to be halted for a week starting September 24, but Namulindwa says they had to close earlier than that on request by the agency to ensure that there are no people waiting at the time of servicing.

However, she notes that the machine was last serviced in October last year but added that this time should be shorter.

"We treat a lot of people with this machine. Because of this, we are supposed to service it more often", she said adding that services are set to resume by end of this week after the engineer arrived in the country last week.

According to the manufacturer, the cobalt 60 machine is supposed to be serviced every six months. In an earlier interview, Dr Daniel Kanyike who heads radiotherapy at the institute said the machine works 24/7 every Monday to Friday and can treat 80 patients per day.

This machine was brought in the country in 2016 after the irreparable breakdown of the previous one that had been in use for more than 20 years. Then, the country was thrown into a panic since it was the only one in the country.

Many patients died because they couldn't access treatment whereas others sought services outside the country. Although by that time the new one had been ordered three years ago in 2013, it only got to be used in 2018 because it was still going through various safety checks. Now, Namulindwa says, radiotherapy services should resume by end of this week.

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