By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
SCORES of cancer patients seeking treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi Araba, Lagos are going through harrowing times following the incessant breakdown of the radiotherapy machine at the health facility.

Radio machine


Lamenting that their predicament, the patients  who throng the health facility daily in the bid to undergo radiotherapy treatment, alleged that failure of the LUTH management to repair the broken down machine was compounding their situation.

However,  the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Prof Chris Bode, said  efforts are in top gear to get the machine back on stream.

One of the patients who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said: “The machine which was procured some time back broke down and the technicians meant to do the repairs have refused to do so because they are being owed fees for the previous repair they did on the machine last year.”

According to the patient: “Scores are stranded as there are only four of such radiotherapy machines in Nigeria: LUTH, University College Hospital (UCH), EKO Hospital, Lagos, and National Hospital, Abuja.

“Although the machine at LUTH is said to be modern and about the best of the lot, the negligence on the part of LUTH Management to ensure routine maintenance means the machine is now lying idle.  This official negligence has put the lives of cancer patients in danger.”

Another patient who simply identified herself as Fola, explained that cancer treatment is in two major phases: “Chemotherapy (which can be before or after surgery) and radiotherapy. The patients are supposed to undergo radiotherapy treatment three to four weeks upon completion of chemotherapy sessions.

“Failure to commence the radiotherapy as at when due can jeopardise the life of the patient as the cancer cells are likely to regroup and fight back/spread in an alarming speed.  All the huge funds sunk into chemotherapy session will be wasted and the pains and agony that go with chemo sessions will be in vain. But more importantly, is the life of the patient which must not be compromised.  A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

“Secondly, fate of patients who had already started the chemotherapy in LUTH before the machine broke down has been left desolate. By the nature of the treatment which lasts for about 21 consecutive days, there shouldn’t be a break in between.

” If a patient has had the treatment sessions for 18 days and misses the 19th day, that patient will be required to start afresh for the treatment to be effective. This amounts to psychological trauma and wasted time and resources for the patients,” Fola argued.

LUTH responds

But in quick response, the Chief Medical Director, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode sympathised with the patients undergoing radiotherapy in the hospital over the machine breakdown even as he said efforts are in top gear to get the machine back on stream.

Bode who spoke to Vanguard on telephone, urged patients to bear with the management, even as he affirmed  there is ongoing effort to replace the machine before the end of the year.

“I sympathise with all cancer patients across the country especially those that depend on LUTH’s services. We understand that cancer care requires 100 per cent attention and recognise importance of radiotherapy in cancer management, that is why we ensure that the machine is repaired any time it breaks down.

“The radiotherapy machine in question has exhausted its lifespan, but we are not relenting in keeping it functional.  But we need to understand that out of seven radiotherapy machines procured during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration about 12 years ago under the VAMED hospital equipment refurbishing project, LUTH radiotherapy machine is the only one still standing in the whole country.”

Bode hinted that in 2017 alone the machine in question had broken down five times and that the manufacturer had  withdrawn supportive service for it as the machine has outlived its lifespan.

He debunked allegations that  that LUTH was owing engineers  for previous repairs, describing it as ‘unfounded’.

“As we are repairing one part, another will break down but we are not relenting as we understand our responsibility. We see it as national priority and anytime it breaks down we fly in experts from South Africa to repair it which costs millions of naira, but despite all these challenges we are still committed to ensure quality life for our patients.”

“That is why we are reaching out to international corporate organisations to replace the old machine with two brand new machines before the end of this year. But in the interim, there is hope that in few weeks the machine will be revived and will work again.”

On the burden of managing cancer in the hospital, he remarked:  “On a normal day, we treat over 100 patients. Ideally LUTH should have about three to six radiotherapy machines but we are left with a 12-year- old machine that has exhausted its lifespan.”

Unfortunately, findings show that epileptic power supply is one of the major causes of equipment collapse in the health facilities in the country.

Medical equipment are  sensitive to power fluctuations and for optimal use, thre must be permanently uninterrupted power supply.

Experts highlighted the haphazard nature of power supply in Nigeria, noting that  most public hospitals are unable to generate stable power on 24- hour basis due to the high cost of diesel.


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