Among the more significant challenges facing the country’s oncology services at present is the “progressive decrease” in specialist radiation oncologists in the academic/state sector, the SA Society of Clinical Radiation and Oncology (SASCRO) has noted in a newsletter presenting its most recent annual census results.

Since 2016, SASCRO has conducted an annual census of clinical and radiation oncologists (rad onc), as well as of medical oncologists (med onc) who treat solid tumours.

While clinical and radiation oncologists have remained constant at 88% of the total (185/211), specialist clinical and radiation oncologists in the academic/state sector have decreased from 25% in 2016 (42/168) to 20.5% in 2018 (38/185).

Despite an increase in radiation oncologists in the private sector from 126 in 2016 to 147 in 2018, the SASCRO private practice subcommittee has made the point nonetheless that there is a relative shortage of practising oncologists countrywide.

The decrease in specialist radiation oncologists in the academic / state sector, it adds,  is not directly related to salaries in this sector: “There are known pathways to enable employment in the academic/ state sector to be professionally more rewarding,”  SASCRO suggests,  alluding to a proposal for discussion purposes that the use of agreed national protocols for the public sector would allow oncologists in both the private and public sector to contribute to the care of state patients as well as teaching and research which is anchored around those protocols.

“Data on activities would also be prospectively gathered and jointly reviewed by management and the responsible oncologists every 3 to 6 months,” SASCRO concludes, expressing the wish to work constructively with all stakeholders “in the interests of patients and academic activities in oncology”.