Health officials are hoping a new state of the art cancer treatment facility at the Steve Biko Academic hospital in Pretoria will help address the huge backlog of patients awaiting therapy.

The new linear accelerator machine which cost R41 million will see patients undergoing therapy in just five minutes as opposed to fifteen minutes on the current machines which are more than fifteen years old.

Gauteng currently has a total of nine cancer treatment machines. Five are at the Steve Biko Academic hospital in Pretoria, while the Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospital in Johannesburg has four.

The health department in the province is hoping its latest acquisition will assist in addressing backlog. It plans to purchase two more machines before the end of this year.

“We have about a thousand patients who are on treatment in these two facilities, charlotte maxeke in the south and Steve Biko in the north. The coverage included North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo at Gauteng, and sometimes many patients from neighbouring provinces like Free State into Gauteng as well,” says Gauteng health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa.

A team of twenty two radiographers and three physicists have been tasked with the running of the new facility which cost 8 million to construct.

Head of Radiographers at the hospital, Prevania Pillay, says the department was for a long time forced to turn back patients due to the limited resources.

“For us now to have new machines and to have the possibility to replace the other four machines, it gives us as a team a lot more of a boost to carry on with our work, because we see the patients every day, we can see that they’re waiting and for us to have them wait is extremely disheartening for us as well. So we try our best to treat as many patients as possible but we hope this is now a new trend of machines and we can actually maybe at some point get rid of our backlog that we have at the moment.”

Professor Roy Lakier who’s the Head of the Radio Oncology at the hospital says this is a good investment for the well-being of cancer patients.

“It’s also an accelerator; it’s more advanced, 15 years newer than the old ones, so we can have extract capability. It’s also an extra facility; it gives us an extra 20 percent more. It’s also new hopefully it will be more reliable. ”

The facility is expected to start treating its first patient late in November after staff has undergone training.