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SAHRC Acts to Protect Cancer Patient’s Rights to Adequate Healthcare

Media Release Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission:

15 June 2017 – On or about 19 February 2016, the Commission received a written complaint raising a number of challenges regarding the provision of health care services to oncology patients in the KZN Province.

The complainant alleged that there were insufficient radiotherapy treatment devices and facilities in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal which had a negative impact on the treatment of patients living with cancer in the province. The radiotherapy machines used for radiotherapy treatment at Addington Hospital were not working.

This therefore resulted in delays in the treatment of oncology patients which the complainant attributed to the shortage of functional health technologies. The complainant further alleged that the Department of Health in Kwa-Zulu Natal was failing to provide oncology patients with adequate health care services.

Preliminary Assessment & Investigation

The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) in line with its Constitutional mandate as set out in section 184 of the Constitution; to monitor, protect and promote human rights as set out in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution, conducted a preliminary assessment of the complaint. The Commission’s preliminary assessment determined that the matter raised concerns relating to the right to have access to health care services which is enshrined in section 27 of the Constitution, as well as other interrelated rights that are implicated such as the rights to life and human dignity.

On this basis the Commission determined that an investigation into the complaint should be undertaken in order to establish the veracity of the allegations raised by the complainant.

Findings Investigation

The extensive investigation initiated by the Commission found that the respondents, being Addington Hospital, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALC Hospital), the Department of Health Kwa-Zulu Natal and the MEC of Kwa-Zulu Natal Health, have violated the rights of oncology patients at the Addington and IALC Hospitals, to have access to health care services, as a result of their failure to comply with applicable norms and standards set out in legislation and policies.

Commission’s Recommendations

The Commission’s binding recommendations in terms of section 13 (1) (a) (i) of the SAHRC Act are that the Respondents are required to immediately take steps to repair and monitor all the health technology machines regardless of contractual disputes yet to be finalised through the courts; that a management plan be adopted to deal with the backlog through, amongst others, entering into interim Public Private Partnership arrangements with private oncologists, medical officers, radiotherapists and oncology nurses and that an interim referral management plan be developed to facilitate the referral of patients to private service providers for screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The respondents are required to report to the Commission, within ten days of receipt of the report into its investigation.

View media release

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