Zim turns to America to fix cancer machines

Source: Zim turns to America to fix cancer machines -Newsday Zimbabwe

GOVERNMENT has signed a three-year contract with an American company to repair and maintain cancer machines in the country to alleviate the plight of patients who are forced to cross borders for specialised treatment.

Health and Child Care deputy minister Sleiman Timios Kwidini revealed this on Thursday while responding to written questions in the National Assembly on measures to upgrade and modernise cancer treatment machines at referral hospitals.



“This contract [with Varian Medical Systems] ensures regular inspections, preventive maintenance and prompt repairs, if necessary, to sustain the functionality of the cancer machines in the long term,” he said.

“By partnering Varian and implementing a maintenance contract, the ministry is demonstrating its commitment to providing continuous and improved cancer care services. “

Varian Medical Systems is an American radiation oncology treatments and software maker based in Palo Alto, California.

Zimbabwe cancer patients have been facing challenges in accessing treatment because of a critical shortage of radiotherapy and chemotherapy equipment.



Radiotherapy machines are used to treat at least 50% of all cancer cases.

It can be either corrective or relaxing, depending on the stage and prognosis of the disease.

Health experts indicate that some types of cancer, like cervical cancer, are preventable and easy to treat if diagnosed early.


However, some cancer patients have been forced to go outside the country for treatment because of limited medical resources and lack of specialised treatment options.

Last month, a parliamentary portfolio committee heard that cancer machines at Mpilo Central Hospital stopped functioning in 2021, leaving patients stranded.

“The ministry will closely monitor the repair progress and implementation of the maintenance contract to ensure that the cancer machines at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo hospitals are fully restored and maintained to the highest standards,’’ Kwidini said.

‘‘The ministry has taken proactive measures to address the repair of the cancer machines at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo hospitals by engaging Varian, the equipment supplier.

“The repair process is currently underway, with Varian engineers working diligently to restore the functionality of these crucial machines.”

Kwidini said government was developing a National Cancer Control Plan that would guide cancer treatment services in the country in the next five years.

“Having properly functioning equipment is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, ultimately leading to better outcomes for cancer patients,” he said,

He said the ministry had applied to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rays of Hope Initiative for new cancer machines and setting up of radiotherapy centres.

An IAEA initiative to address the cancer care gap and give access to cancer treatment to those who need it most began in 2022.

Since the initiative began, a number of countries have received a range of key radiotherapy and medical imaging machines — as well as training of the medical professionals needed to operate the equipment and provide safe and timely diagnostic and treatment services.

In a related matter, the Apostolic Churches Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) has partnered KidzCan Zimbabwe, a local voluntary organisation that helps children with cancer and blood disorders, to raise awareness about childhood cancers.

The two organisations signed a memorandum of understanding recently at the Mapisarema Apostolic Church of Zimbabwe in Zvishavane.

KidzCan executive director Daniel McKenzie said ACCZ officials would be capacitated with essential knowledge and strategies in a bid to ensure a comprehensive approach in combating the deadly disease.

“In return for the vital support, KidzCan will capacitate the bishops with essential fundraising knowledge and strategies, ensuring a comprehensive approach to combating childhood cancer, emphasising the critical importance of early detection and treatment,” McKenzie said.

“We are confident that this collaboration will yield significant results and create a brighter, healthier future for our children.”

According to the Health and Child Care ministry, cancer remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality with over 5 000 new cases diagnosed and over 1 500 deaths recorded per year.

Current estimates indicate that every year, 3 043 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 50% die from the disease.

Cervical, prostate and breast cancers account for 66% of the total cancer burden in Zimbabwe, as well as 61% of total cancer fatalities, according to Health and Child Care ministry statistics.