More than 2 000 patients are on the waiting list for different surgeries at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. File Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)
More than 2 000 patients are on the waiting list for different surgeries at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. File Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Thousands await critical surgery at Steve Biko Academic Hospital

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Oct 6, 2021

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Pretoria – The backlog for patients awaiting surgery at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria has ballooned to more than 2 000, with a waiting period of about 10 years for some specialised surgeries.

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi in her written reply to questions in the legislature from the DA’s provincial spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom.

Bloom submitted written questions to Mokgethi in the legislature asking her about the backlog at the Pretoria hospital.

In her reply, Mokgethi said the waiting list had 2 110 patients, including 205 who will have to wait between eight and 10 years for maxillofacial surgery.

“The Orthopaedics Department has the most number of patients waiting for surgery – 638 patients who need hip, knee, spinal or feet operations will wait between 18 months to two years. Another problem area is paediatrics, where there are 385 young children on the surgery waiting list,” said Bloom.

Patients needing general surgery and urology surgery wait from eight to 12 months.

“The best departments are neurosurgery and cardiothoracic, where the waiting time is only two weeks,” said Bloom.

Mokgethi, in her legislature response, said emergency procedures were taking priority to elective surgery cases.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, only semi-urgent electives were done and urgent cases. Out of 21 theatres, only 10 to 14 theatres were operational,” she submitted.

Mokgethi also submitted that the Steve Biko Academic Hospital was dogged by a shortage of operating theatre professional nurses and that limited the number of theatres that were operating at the facility.

“The hospital’s shortage of ICU trained professional nurses limits the number of active ICU beds and the level (type) of operations at SBAH are often dependent on the availability of post-operative critical care beds. SBAH still receives a significant number of patient referrals that should have been operated at the tertiary hospitals in the SBAH cluster,” she said.

“Covid-19 pandemic peaks led to the suspension of all elective procedures as resources – beds and staff – is shared to care for Covid-19 patients, emergencies and urgent procedure-requiring patients.”

As part of her departmental interventions to cut the long waiting list, Mokgethi said surgical disciplines from the Steve Biko Academic Hospital have had to perform some operations at the referring hospitals within the cluster.

Neurosurgery, orthopaedics, and urology operations were carried out at Tembisa Hospital; neurosurgery and orthopaedics operations were also carried out at Kalafong Hospital; while some orthopaedics and ophthalmology also carried out at the Mamelodi Hospital.

Some procedures of general surgery and ophthalmology were performed at the Tshwane District Hospital.

Mokgethi also submitted that the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s surgical disciplines have had to perform outreach to referring hospitals to transfer skills and to capacitate the neighbouring hospitals to render the specialised services.

She added that an additional general surgery theatre had been activated, before the outbreak of Covid-19 to deal with general surgery backlogs.

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