Patients at Mulago, especially those suffering from cancer, are stranded after the Radiotherapy machine broke down.
According to the patients, the machine has been down for at least two weeks. It is the only one in the country It is generally used in the treatment of mostly cancer, with radiation directed against cancer cells, destroying them while sparing the normal ones.
At the radiotherapy unit, a handwritten notice said the machine was out of order. But one doctor said it was functional.
“The machine is not really down but it’s functioning in intervals”, the doctor told The Observer.
However, one frustrated man called The Observer on Friday to say that patients were stranded after they were told for two weeks that the machine was down. Another man, whose father is down with cancer, said he had been told on July 26 to return the next Friday.
“But when we came back today, we told that the machine is not functioning,” he said.
Radiotherapy services in Uganda are supposed to be free, though, it’s said that some patients are forced to pay between Shs 60,000 and 300,000. Mulago radiotherapy machine is not only the only standard radiation equipment in the country, it also serves patients from Uganda and those neighboring like Southern Sudan and those from the Uganda/Rwanda boarder.
“We came in earlier and we were told to go back, this is the third time I am coming here this week”, said a distressed Phillip whose father was referred to the Radiotherapy unit by the Uganda Cancer Institute.
Last year, research by the Uganda Cancer Research Foundation showed that the risk of dying from cancer by age 65 was higher in Uganda than in the developed countries. That statistic will get worse with the breakdown of this vital equipment.
One Rita, a patient who got a chance to access the machine services when it worked briefly on Friday, could not hide her excitement after leaving the room.
“I’ve been coming here for the past four days and today, I’ve been lucky to get in”, she said.
Efforts to get a comment from the Mulago hospital authorities were futile. The head of the unit was reportedly not available, while hospital Spokesperson Enock Kusasira did not return our calls.