Relatives of cancer patients and health activists on Monday had running battles with riot police as they staged a public protest over dysfunctional radiotherapy machines at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
Studio 7 has learnt that the radiotherapy machines have not been functioning for almost 10 days now, putting the lives of hundreds of cancer patients at risk.
Hospital authorities refused to discuss the matter and referred all questions to Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, who was not reachable for comment as he was said to be attending some meetings.
Radiotherapy machines are used for burning cancerous cells to stop the disease from spreading.
The protestors, who were irked by lack of action to repair the machines, decided to take matters into their own hands and stage the public protest in Harare, only to be stopped by police in riot gear.
One of the protestors, Warship Dumba, who has a relative living with cancer, said he decided to join others in order to force the government to repair the radiotherapy machines.
"The problem at Parirenyatwa Cancer Unit is a serious one. Since last week the machines have been down and ever since that time the patients have not been getting treatment which should be a daily thing. So, we want to put pressure on the ministry of health and government to ensure the machines are repaired as soon as possible or buy new machines because this is a life and death issue and it seems the Ministry of Health is not concerned about our health.”
Evelyn Tachiona, another demonstrator, said it was high time government is pressured to declare cancer a national disaster.
She said the government should put its priorities right as it appears to be neglecting the health sector.
“I am participating in this demo because cancer is now a national disaster. You find that most of the money is used for things that are not relevant like now the Vice President (Phelekezela Mphoko) is staying in a luxurious hotel. Imagine if all that money could be going in the health sector.”
Lynnette Mudehwe, who is the leader of Zimbabwe Activists Alliance, organizers of today's demonstration, said they are unhappy about many issues faced by Zimbabweans, including premature deaths in the country.
“We are here to demonstrate our disgust and displeasure at the government of Zimbabwe for lack of seriousness in ensuring the right to health. Cancer machines have been down for the past 1odays and we are having premature deaths.”
Linda Masarira, director of Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance, said such demonstrations would pressurize the government to ensure that the critical cancer machines are functional.
“The radiotherapy machines at Parirenyatwa are not working. There are only two machines in Zimbabwe one at Pari and another at Karanda hospital. It is sad to note that the Ministry of Health does not take this issue as a matter of priority and as activists we are saying this is enough.”
It costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to undergo radiotherapy treatment in Zimbabwe. Most people, living under the poverty datum line of about $560 for a family of six living in an urban set up, can hardly afford such treatment.