The Ministry of Health has denied as false, reports that the new cancer machine had broken down, only months after its instalment.
The Nile Post last week broke a story, quoting reliable sources indicating that cancer patients had gone for days without radiotherapy treatment while some have been told to consider chemotherapy ever since the machine broke down.
However, on Sunday, the Director General Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Henry Mwebesa told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre that the cobalt machine has not broken down but set to undergo periodic servicing.
“With guidance from manufacturer, operations of the machine have been scaled down in preparation for its first periodic servicing scheduled for next week,” Dr.Mwebesa said on Sunday afternoon.
“Servicing of the Radiotherapy machine at the Uganda Cancer Institute will take place from Friday 8 June to Sunday 10 June,2018. Normal full capacity operation of Radiotherapy services will resume on Monday 11 June 2018.”
Rachel Muhindo, a patient that Nile Post spoke to last week said was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer and put on chemotherapy which she has had for about 14 days.
She however noted that when she went for radiotherapy the doctors told her to wait for a call to notify her if the machine was working and that on returning for radiotherapy, she was again referred to return the following week.
However, according to the health ministry, the new machine is working perfectly and the number of treatment sessions has risen from 20 to over 300 per day since its installation.
Approximately, 1000 patients have been treated since the restoration of radiotherapy services at Uganda Cancer Institute and about 15,000 treatment sessions were done by the end of May 2018.
Dr. Mwebesa added that construction of additional modern bunkers with six chambers which will house 4 radiotherapy machines has reached a level of 95 percent progress and intended to fast track the next phase of modernisation and expansion of radiotherapy services.
He revealed that government has supported training of three radiotherapy technicians who are currently training in Zambia and expected to return in March 2019.
The cancer machine was launched in January 2018 following the breakdown of the 1995 procured cobalt 60 radiotherapy machine, which broke down beyond repair on March 27, 2016, leaving about 2,000 patients without proper treatment and some people died in the process.
The unit gets 44,000 new referrals annually from Uganda and from neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Around 75 per cent of these may require radiotherapy.