Ministry of Health has dismissed media reports earlier in the week that the Cobalt 60 Radiotherapy machine at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) broke down.
The reports, quoting sources and cancer patients claimed the machine, which was installed late last year, broke down mid this week, forcing patients into long waits for treatment.
The Ministry’s Director General Health Services Dr Henry Mwebesa in a statement on Sunday said the machine is in fact fully functional, but slated to undergo what he called “periodic servicing.”
The servicing, he said, this is planned for this starting week.
“With guidance from the manufacturer, the operations of the machine have been scaled down in preparation for its first periodic servicing. The machine is still under warranty and therefore servicing is done for free by the manufacturer,” he said.
“The designated technician from the machine manufacturer (UJP-Praha), Mr Bednar Andrej has been contacted and is expected to arrive in the country on Thursday 7th June 2018 to undertake the servicing of the machine which will commence on Friday 8th and run through the weekend of 9th -10th June 2018. Normal full capacity operation of radiotherapy services is expected to resume on Monday 11th June 2018.”
This new machine is a high-level and ultra-modern machine and was accepted by both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Institute for Clinical Use in October 2017.
The new machine has been treating hundreds of patients since November last year at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
Mwebesa says however, that owing to the big number of patients, the machine needed to be serviced.
“The number of patients treated per day drastically increased from about 10 patients upon re-establishment of the service in November and December 2017 to 150 patients per day by the end of March 2018. This has remained the current average number treated per day, with the exception of the emergency cases,” he said.
The DG says about 1000 patients have been treated since the restoration of radiotherapy services at UCI last November, and about 15,000 treatment sessions had been done by the end of May 2018.
“Consequently, the department now works in two shifts; the first: From 5.00 AM to 1.30 PM, while the second runs from 1.30 PM to 10.30 PM,” he said.
Meanwhile, three Uganda Radiotherapy Technicians are undergoing training in Zambia and are expected back in the country in March 2019.
Also, according to Mwebesa, construction of additional modern bunkers with six chambers -which will house four linear accelerator radiotherapy machines- has also reached a level of 95% progress and this is intended to fast track the next phase of modernization and expansion of radiotherapy services.