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Blood cancer costs have a detrimental impact on South Africans

Blood cancer costs have a detrimental impact on South Africans

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the health-care system, where about 71% of the population relies on state health-care and only 27% can afford the cost of private care.

Studies reveal that compared to 9.9% of black South Africans, 72.9% of white South Africans have access to medical care.

According to Nabiella de Beer, communications manager at DKMS Africa: “This boils down to affordability, especially with the majority of white people earning three times more on average than their black counterparts and unemployment rates being almost five times higher among the latter.”

She says while some hospital health treatments may be provided at no cost to patients who earn social pensions, and disability grants, and are inclined to receive hospital health services free of charge, the majority of state patients are partially subsidised depending on their income.

De Beer says: “In-patient chemotherapy treatment starts at around R3 000 per day and radiation reaching up to R27 000 per session – part of which may come from the patient.”

She notes that the price is greater for people with blood cancers, whose best chance of recovery is a blood stem cell donation from a compatible donor, as transplants cost between R1 million and R1.5m.

“However, it’s crucial to highlight that the state does not pay the donor-related costs for stem cell transplants from an unrelated donor, which can range from R120 000 to R1m,” De Beer said. And that means that in some instances patients may need to pay out of pocket.

Blood cancer costs have a detrimental impact on South Africans
Drive to educate about blood cancer. Picture by Anna Shvets/pexels

“Complicating matters is the fact that only 0,04% of South Africans are registered as blood stem cell donors, 10% of whom are black, so the potential pool of matching donors from within the country is minuscule.”

As a result of the limited donor pool means patients often need to look abroad for donors whose tissue characteristics are a 100% match.

For Gugu, a 38-year-old leukemia patient from KwaZulu-Natal, securing a donor was her last hope. She regrettably passed away after failing to find a donor match, leaving her younger sister, Cebo, to raise her two children, who are now 2 and 15 years old, in addition to her own two sons and her late brother’s daughter.

“We were all devastated when she learned that the donors could no longer assist,” Cebo said.

Sadly for Cebo, Gugu was the sole breadwinner. The financial strains on the family have now been placed on Cebo, a 28-year-old nursing graduate who is unemployed.

“With Gugu being in the hospital from November last year until August this year, I have battled to pay the bills. Raising five kids on my own has also been extremely challenging. I need to get a job; I’ve been applying, but nothing has materialised,” Cebo said.

Gugu’s desire was for people to become more knowledgeable about the various blood cancers.

“Having this knowledge at a young age will be beneficial to you. Unfortunately, we frequently put off self-education until it is too late. Before Gugu became ill, I was unaware of blood stem cell donation; but, if we had known about it sooner, we might have been able to find a donor and Gugu would still be with us today, enjoying her children’s development,” said the deceased’s younger sister.

“We challenge South Africans to help us to ring the bell for five transplant patients by donating to this initiative. Together, we can help to relieve some of the financial burdens on these patients,” De Beer says.

To donate to the Bell of Hope fund-raising campaign, go to https://www.dkms-africa.org/get-involved/campaigns/bell-of-hope. To register as a potential donor, please sign up at: https://www.dkms-africa.org/register-now. For more information, contact DKMS Africa at 0800 12 10 82.

Original Article