Much of South Africa’s public health sector is plagued by long waiting times for surgery, a situation that was made much worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, an inspiring project at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town has reached its target of slashing its backlog by 1 500 surgeries. Elri Voigt reports.
Head of general surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor Lydia Cairncross is a sharp thinker and straight talker. Whether it is on issues of equity and social justice or on how to strengthen quality healthcare – Cairncross speaks her mind. Tiyese Jeranji spoke to her as part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series.
Based on figures from the national Department of Health over 107 000 non-emergency or elective surgeries were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. But challenges in addressing surgical backlogs were there before COVID-19. Alicestine October asked some local experts how surgical care can be better coordinated in South Africa.
Elective surgery is often performed on injuries or for conditions considered less life-threatening and some patients can wait up to two years for their procedure, which will often be scheduled and then cancelled when someone with a more serious medical emergency takes their spot on the list. This takes a huge emotional and financial toll on these patients and their families. Alicestine October reports.
Hospitals in South Africa have been put under immense strain over the past two years as beds were filled with COVID-19 patients and elective surgeries had to be put on hold. To make things worse, pre-existing shortages of intensive care trained nurses and other critical staff were exacerbated by healthcare workers themselves contracting SARS-CoV-2 and falling ill or having to isolate themselves. Tiyese Jeranji explores how Gauteng and the Western Cape are catching up on elective surgeries and asks what is being done about the underlying problem of staff shortages.