For the next few weeks, top surgeons will perform 67 most-needed surgeries on the province’s destitute
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: https://www.gshfb.co.za/donatepage
Former South African President Nelson Mandela