Health

Cancer misdiagnosis forces Lesotho’s hand

Mampho Tsupane

In a bid to reduce the high cancer treatment costs, Lesotho welcomed an Indian cancer specialist, Dr. Hassan Mobashshar, an oncologist to diagnose patients who would go to India for treatment.

Health Minister Nkaku Kabi said previously, patients were misdiagnosed by unskilled health practitioners and later transferred to South Africa.

“The cancer treatment which was balanced by the government was M800 000 per year, an amount which was too high for the country.

“Our last year’s budget was squandered carelessly because some patients were falsely sent to South Africa to be ‘treated for cancer.” Some patients were misdiagnosed and sent to South Africa to treat them for cancer, only to our surprise it was not cancer.

It was unfortunate that when discovering that the transfers were unjust, South African hospitals did not send them back, but rather treated them. That cost us a lot of money which we could have saved by treating those patients in the country,” the minister said.

Last year, Lesotho sent 47 patients who were treated in India.

“Our aim was to send as many patients as we can, but apparently that is not possible.

We have many cancer patients in Lesotho that need to be sent to India. We have about 47 patients who were treated and are healed now,” Kabi said.

The minister mentioned that the M800 000 government spent to send cancer patients to South Africa was far too expensive as opposed to sending them to India.

“In June, we are planning to send some of our nurses to India for training, to ensure that they are capacitated with necessary skills to diagnose patients.”

The minister revealed that the ministry is about to launch 30 health posts around the country.

“The passing of the Radiation Act last year allows Lesotho to establish cancer centres in Lesotho and that is where we are driving towards.”

Kabi confirmed to Newsday that as the ministry, they are not doing much to make people aware of the dangers of cancer to the country.

He however revealed that to strengthen their outreach, they are planning to implement workable and sustainable advocacy projects.

Dr. Mobashshar cited that there are different types of cancer patients sent to India for treatment.

“We normally come across cervical, breast, prostate, uterus, lungs and blood cancer patients, but the treatment used is chemotherapy, radiation or operation if needed.

“Yesterday we examined 28 people of which not all will not be sent to India because some of them are at stage 4 cancer.

“There is no need to take them there as their cancer has progressed, they will be sent to Bloemfontein. They need immediate attention,” he said.

The specialist noted that since the campaign to test Basotho for Cancer early this year, he and his local colleagues have examined 110 patients.

“Again, not all will be sent to India. For those who came back from India for treatment, they will be examined here in Lesotho by me because I was also in India for training, so I am well equipped to see that they are fully recovered.”

In an interview with Newsday, one of the patients who received treatment in India could not stop thanking the country for sending her to India.

“When I started getting sick I thought I had piles. I went from different doctors but did not get better. I then went to Tšepong where I was told that I have anal canal cancer, then I was referred to Queen 2.

When the Apollo doctors came in January, I was sent to India on February 2. I received chemotherapy and radiation until April 1. I came back in May and I was told that I am cancer free. In July I will have my first check-up at Queen 2,” the patient said.

Newsday managed to speak with one of the patients who will be sent to India next month, Molulela Ntee.
“I was so sick for the past six years. I had a skin problem and I went to different doctors, but could not be cured.

“I was given many pills and creams but the problem would be better for a short while but later it comes back. Finally the diagnosis from Tšepong showed that it was cancer. Today Apollo doctors are referring me to India for treatment. I now have hope that I will be cured,” said Ntee.

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