67 needy pa­tients get free surgery

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

TO­DAY peo­ple around the world will be get­ting their hands dirty, ded­i­cat­ing at least 67 min­utes of the their time help­ing oth­ers and giv­ing back to their com­mu­ni­ties in hon­our of Nel­son Man­dela, who spent most of his life help­ing oth­ers.

It was in 2009 – the day Nel­son Man­dela was born – that the UN asked in­di­vid­u­als around the world to mark Nel­son Man­dela In­ter­na­tional Day by mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­ni­ties. For 67 years the for­mer states­man de­voted his life to the ser­vice of hu­man­ity – as a hu­man rights lawyer, a pris­oner of con­science, an in­ter­na­tional peace­maker be­fore he was elected the first pres­i­dent of a demo­cratic South Africa in 1994.

One South African who has ded­i­cated more than 67 min­utes of his time help­ing oth­ers is Dr Paul Rowe – the head of gen­eral spe­cial­ist ser­vices for or­thopaedics in the Western Cape De­part­ment of Health.

He is one of the medics who spear­headed the Nel­son Man­dela Day surgery ini­tia­tive – a se­ries of surg­eries of­fered by the de­part­ment that saw 67 des­ti­tute pub­lic sec­tor pa­tients re­ceiv­ing life-chang­ing surgery for free.

The ini­tia­tive, which In­de­pen­dent Me­dia is part of, saw 40 pa­tients re­ceiv­ing free cataract surg­eries and 27 pa­tients re­ceiv­ing athro­plasty – oth­er­wise known as hip and knee joint surg­eries – be­tween June and July.

Or­di­nar­ily, th­ese pa­tients would have to wait for up to two years or more for such surg­eries due to the long wait­ing list of elec­tive surg­eries in the pub­lic sec­tor.

Rowe ex­plains why he be­came part of this wor­thy ini­tia­tive: Who are you? I am an or­thopaedic sur­geon work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor in Cape Town. I’ve been work­ing there for al­most 20 years. Cur­rently, I’m the head of gen­eral spe­cial­ist ser­vice for or­thopaedics in the Western Cape. Why did you be­come a doc­tor? It’s funny, I ac­tu­ally wanted to be a car­pen­ter. I’ve al­ways been phys­i­cal and I al­ways wanted to build things and use my hands. But my fam­ily said that I should go to univer­sity. So, be­fore I went to med­i­cal school I used to do a lot of car­pen­try work, that was my hobby.

I stud­ied medicine be­cause I needed to study, it was not a pas­sion of mine. I dis­cov­ered or­thopaedics which made a lot of sense to me. It re­quired drills, tools and plates, so I knew I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

How is a day in the life of a sur­geon?

We start at 7am, with ward rounds and see all our cur­rent ward pa­tients and any new ad­mis­sions from the pre­vi­ous evening. We start plan­ning for surg­eries or dis­charge of pa­tients, and hope­fully min­imise any po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions.

Then at 8am we ei­ther at­tend a clinic to see out­pa­tients and con­tinue pa­tient man­age­ment, or we spend the day in theatre op­er­at­ing and fix­ing the frac­tures, per­form­ing joint re­place­ments or re­con­struct­ing lig­a­ments and mus­cle at­tach­ments.

The day ends with another short ward round to see those pa­tients who have had their surgery and check up on the progress of ev­ery­one else. We go home at about 6pm.

Why are you in­ter­ested in pub­lic health?

I come from a back­ground with a be­lief that all peo­ple should be given a chance, treated equally and with re­spect, re­gard­less of their sta­tion in life; and that the over­all “well­ness” of the pop­u­la­tion is more im­por­tant than that of the in­di­vid­ual.

For me, this was an easy de­ci­sion: the state sec­tor is un­der ser­viced, with fewer doc­tors than the pri­vate sec­tor, so the de­ci­sion on where I can add value to the over­all “well­ness” of the pop­u­la­tion is through the state sec­tor.

Be­yond that is the be­lief that “hard work never killed any­one”, and so I have tried to do what I can to help cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that en­ables us all to de­liver world-class or­thopaedics to as many peo­ple in the pop­u­la­tion as pos­si­ble.

Senior man­age­ment in the Western Cape takes a sim­i­lar view and works with us to cre­ate this en­abling en­vi­ron­ment.

Be­ing a doc­tor in the 1990s com­pared to now?

Now the ser­vice is grad­u­ally be­ing over­run by the sheer vol­ume of pa­tients, and I hope that steps are be­ing taken to cope with this in­crease.The tech­nol­ogy and our un­der­stand­ing of medicine are just grow­ing in­cred­i­bly fast. So mod­ern doc­tors have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of dis­eases and bet­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions and treat­ments than in the 1990s.

What is your role in the Man­dela Day project?

My role in the Man­dela Day surgery ini­tia­tive, has been to as­sist in co-or­di­nat­ing the day, in get­ting do­na­tions in the form of the ac­tual joints that are im­planted and funds to pay for the nurs­ing staff. I have been the link per­son to all the other sur­geons in the sys­tem, to en­able them to per­form the surgery, and have been the back-up sur­geon as well. How do you see ini­tia­tives such as Man­dela Day in em­pow­er­ing the com­mu­nity?

Days like Man­dela Day of­fer us hope that de­spite the in­cred­i­bly long wait­ing lists we can still of­fer peo­ple surgery to re­lieve their pain and main­tain their mo­bil­ity. Any ini­tia­tive to get more pa­tients off our wait­ing lists is wel­come by ev­ery­one.

To do­nate to­wards the project you can trans­fer funds to the the Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal Fa­cil­i­ties Board Ac­count: First Na­tional Bank Ac­count num­ber: 62478395306 Cheque Ac­count, and a swift code: FIRNZAJJ Ref­er­ence with #Man­dela67# Visit Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal Board’s web­site: https://www.gshfb. co.za/do­nate-page

DRIV­ING THE INI­TIA­TIVE: Dr Paul Rowe from Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal is head of gen­eral spe­cial­ist ser­vices for or­thopaedics.

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