For the next few weeks, top sur­geons will per­form 67 most-needed surg­eries on the province’s des­ti­tute

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

WITH less than a month left be­fore Nel­son Man­dela International Day, which calls for peo­ple to de­vote 67 min­utes of their time to help­ing oth­ers, Western Cape medics are tak­ing this ap­peal a lit­tle bit fur­ther and will be us­ing the next few weeks lead­ing up to the event to per­form 67 most-needed surg­eries for the province’s des­ti­tute.

Ev­ery year on July 18, Man­dela’s birth­day, peo­ple around the world take the op­por­tu­nity of us­ing the day to hon­our the legacy of South Africa’s for­mer pres­i­dent and his val­ues through vol­un­teer­ing and com­mu­nity ser­vice.

Man­dela Day cel­e­brates the idea that each in­di­vid­ual hu­man be­ing has the power to trans­form the world and the abil­ity to make an im­pact.

As part of the Man­dela Day ini­tia­tive, the provin­cial Depart­ment of Health will this week em­bark on a se­ries of lifechang­ing surg­eries that will see 67 pa­tients get­ting ei­ther cataract surgery or arthro­plasty – oth­er­wise known as hip and knee joint surg­eries – within the space of a month.

The ini­tia­tive, of which In­de­pen­dent Me­dia is a part, will see 40 pa­tients re­ceive free cataract surg­eries and 27 peo­ple get­ting joint op­er­a­tions at pub­lic hos­pi­tals in the province – at a cost of al­most R1 mil­lion.

Or­di­nar­ily these pa­tients would have to wait for up to two years for such op­er­a­tions be­cause of long wait­ing lists for elec­tive surg­eries in the pub­lic sec­tor.

Head of depart­ment Dr Beth Engelbrecht, who is spear­head­ing the project, said with the ev­er­grow­ing surgery lists in the province and dwin­dling fund­ing, the depart­ment had so far raised about R750 000 to do these surg­eries for qual­i­fy­ing peo­ple.

How­ever, she said this would not be enough as the depart­ment still needed an ad­di­tional R150 000 to per­form all 67 surg­eries.

The depart­ment, var­i­ous NGOs, doc­tors and nurses from both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors had not only do­nated their money to­wards the project, but Engelbrecht said they would be of­fer­ing their ex­per­tise and time for free to do these surg­eries for the next month.

Knee and hip joint surg­eries are done when the joint has reached a point where it can no longer func­tion and can­not be re­paired. Not only does this af­fect the pa­tient’s mo­bil­ity, but it leads to poor qual­ity of life due to its as­so­ci­ated chronic pain.

It costs about R60 000 for a joint op­er­a­tion. Cur­rently, the wait­ing list for a knee/hip op­er­a­tion stands tall at 4 119 and the wait­ing pe­riod is any­thing from six month to two years.

There are 1 546 wait­ing for a to­tal hip re­place­ment while 2 573 are wait­ing for a to­tal knee re­place­ment in the Western Cape.

Cataract surgery, on the other hand, is also fac­ing long wait­ing queues.

Western Cape hos­pi­tals should ideally be per­form­ing al­most 10 000 cataract surg­eries a year, but due to their lim­ited re­sources, the province can only per­form 6 500 surg­eries.

Engelbrecht said in keep­ing with the spirit of giv­ing self­lessly on Man­dela Day, the depart­ment has de­cided to go be­yond the “nor­mal” to try and “do some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary for pa­tients who can be helped rel­a­tively eas­ily, but would nor­mally wait quite long”.

“We de­cided that we needed to do 67 op­er­a­tions for Man­dela Day. To help these pa­tients, our call for help has been an­swered by some of our doc­tors and col­leagues in the pri­vate sec­tor, who will do­nate their time to this wor­thy cause.

“The depart­ment is pro­vid­ing theatre re­sources and con­sum­ables for the pro­ce­dures. Madiba said that ‘it is im­pos­si­ble un­til it is done’.

“Do­ing 67 ad­di­tional op­er­a­tions (with­out the depart­ment al­lo­cat­ing ex­tra fund­ing) is seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble but we have man­aged to raise R750 000 and what we want is for more peo­ple to come on board so that we can of­fer more op­er­a­tions over a pe­riod of time,” she said.

This would be the first time the province had en­gaged in such a project, but Engelbrecht said the more funds raised, the more surg­eries would be per­formed.

A to­tal of eight hos­pi­tals across the Western Cape are to par­tic­i­pate in the hip and knee surg­eries, while all the cataract surg­eries would be done at Eerste River Hospi­tal.

One of the pri­vate fun­ders to have con­trib­uted to the project so far is the Medi­clinic hospi­tal group, which has do­nated R50 000 to­wards the project and has of­fered to per­form ad­di­tional cataract surgery at Medi­clinic Mil­ner­ton.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Ack­er­man Foun­da­tion, Med­Met­rics, Smith and Nephew, the Cape Joint Trust, and the two joint sis­ters, Nicci and Ruth An­nette – have con­trib­uted to­wards the project.

To do­nate to­wards the project, you can trans­fer funds to the Groote Schuur Hospi­tal Fa­cil­i­ties Board ac­count: Ac­count num­ber: 62478395306 Cheque Ac­count, and a swift code: FIRNZAJJ Ref­er­ence with #Man­dela67# For more in­for­ma­tion, go to Groote Schuur Hospi­tal Board’s web­site:­natepage

For­mer South African Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela

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