Cape Town - Some doctors are giving up their weekends to operate on children at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital to help put a dent in long waiting lists.
Dr Sharon Cox - a general surgeon who organises the “Saturday Surgeries” - says performing operations at weekends clears the list of all minor surgeries to create space for bigger procedures midweek.
“We try very hard not to perform these surgeries on weekdays as they take up both theatre time and bed space, which we need for bigger surgeries. So weekends are a perfect time to have them as it allows us time to perform these life-changing procedures without necessarily eating on our theatre time,” said Cox.
One of the patients who benefited was Muzamiel Baredien, 6, of Bonteheuwel, who developed an ear infection more than a year ago which later resulted in hearing problems.
His mother, Shamiela, initially thought that he was just being naughty.
“You would speak to him and he would simply ignore you and carry on with whatever he was doing. Trying to get his attention was so frustrating… I always shouted at him, not understanding that he was getting deaf on his left ear,” she said.
But after realising that something was amiss, and after many attempts at self-medicating her son, Shamiela finally took Muzamiel to a private doctor in February who referred him to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
After an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist made a diagnosis of an advanced infection in his middle ear, surgery had to be scheduled.
The family was initially told little Muzamiel would have to wait seven months before he could have tympanomastoidectomy - a surgical procedure to remove growths or infected bone from inside the ear.
But thanks to the “Saturday Surgeries” he had the procedure in July.
The programme, which the hospital provides with the help of private donor funding, performs day surgeries such as ENT and other corrective paediatric operations such as hernia removal, and MRI scans, at weekends.
Through the project, the hospital has performed 220 corrective surgeries in the past three years.
Health MEC Theuns Botha said because of pressures hospitals faced, the so-called minor surgeries were often pushed aside to perform emergency procedures.
“Sometimes we can’t do these surgeries due to financial constraints, but most times we simply can’t do them because there is just not enough time, so they end up being pushed backwards and are often the last in the waiting list. That’s not fair to most patients as they have to wait for months, sometimes years, to have these surgeries,” he said.
Botha said the Saturday surgeries reduced the waiting list by up to six months.