Cancer patients receiving radiotherapy in Malta will be sent abroad to continue their treatment, after a technical fault in equipment halted services at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre.

Seven of the most urgent cases will be flown out to Rome on Wednesday evening, health authorities said, with other urgent cases sent abroad for treatment the following day.

It comes after a technical fault with the linear accelerators, machines that provide targeted radiotherapy treatment to cancer patients. 

Initial investigations suggest the fault that was discovered over the weekend lies in the cooling system that regulates the engines of the machine.

Patients are currently being categorised depending on how urgent it is for them to have treatment. The hospital has not said how long it is expected before the machines will be operational again. 

A health ministry spokesperson said the government will fund all travel and accommodation costs for each patient and an accompanying person. 

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said that a technical team has assessed that the damage to the machines is repairable. 

A brain cancer patient, who uses the radiotherapy service previously told Times of Malta that the hospital had called him on Monday morning to cancel his appointment.

“We were told that all three radiotherapy machines were not functioning after water seeped into them,” he said.

“It is a concern that my treatment has been disrupted, and when I asked when the treatment would continue, the person on the phone could not give me a date.”

He said he feared any interruption to his treatment, worrying that the disease could return or that he would need a longer treatment time to control it.

The Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre opened its doors to its first 50 outpatients back in December 2014.

At the time two linear accelerators were commissioned from the Leeds Cancer Centre at a cost of some €20 million. 

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