Dis-Chem initiative provides lifesaving equipment to combat lung disease

Dr Titus Gideon, pulmonologist at CMJAH, embarks on a three-month fellowship to enhance expertise in interventional pulmonology. Picture: Supplied

Dr Titus Gideon, pulmonologist at CMJAH, embarks on a three-month fellowship to enhance expertise in interventional pulmonology. Picture: Supplied

Published May 12, 2024

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South Africa’s battle against high rates of lung disease has received a significant boost as the pulmonology department at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) became the first beneficiary of Dis-Chem’s #BetterTomorrowStartsHere initiative.

The project, funded by the R12 million pledged by Dis-Chem CEO Rui Morais, was inspired by the Springbok Rugby World Cup victory last year.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2023 research, lung cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related fatalities worldwide among both men and women. Studies indicate that South Africa ranks among the top 10 countries globally for lung cancer incidence and records over 280 000 tuberculosis diagnoses annually, indicating a high prevalence of pulmonary diseases.

A significant challenge in South Africa’s health-care landscape is the insufficient infrastructure for conducting lung biopsies, which impedes accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of lung cancer. Adequate biopsy facilities are essential for obtaining the larger lung tissue samples necessary for a precise diagnosis.

Without access to proper biopsy facilities, pulmonologists face limitations in acquiring sufficient tissue samples, resulting in delays in diagnosis. These delays allow the disease to progress to advanced stages where treatment options are limited and the prognosis becomes unfavourable.

In addressing this challenge, the #BetterTomorrowStartsHere initiative, led by the Dis-Chem Foundation, has contributed ERBECRYO 2, an innovative device that streamlines surgical biopsy processes. This cutting-edge equipment aims to alleviate the burden of lung cancer by expediting biopsy procedures.

Additionally, it will lessen the hospital’s dependence on cardio-thoracic surgeons for obtaining adequate lung biopsies, allowing them to allocate more time to other critical procedures. This development is expected to decrease waiting times for diagnoses, conserve resources, reduce patient stress, and relieve pressure on the public health sector.

Morais stated that the ability to breathe easily is fundamental to well-being and speaks directly to quality of life. The distressing lung disease statistics in South Africa call for interventions that contribute towards lessening the burden of lung disease in South Africa.

“This support of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital’s pulmonology department is a step towards addressing challenges in pulmonary health and aligns with Dis-Chem’s commitment to elevating primary health care across as broad a base of South Africans as possible.

“By addressing these pulmonary health challenges, we are living out our #BetterTomorrowStartsHere commitment to bettering our country’s primary healthcare,” added Morais.

In addition to the technological aspect, another significant component of the #BetterTomorrowStartsHere initiative is advancing education in pulmonology by supporting the professional development of pulmonologists. Dr Titus Gideon, a pulmonologist at CMJAH, will participate in a three-month fellowship at the World Association of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology in Türkiye.

Gideon expressed his gratitude, stating that attending this fellowship was a significant advancement in his career, fostering advanced learning and innovation in his field. “I aim to share the knowledge gained with my colleagues, enhancing our interventional pulmonology unit’s capabilities to provide better care to our patients,“ said Gideon.

The R12m investment, symbolically linked to the 12 winning points in the Rugby World Cup final, aims to address South Africa’s most pressing challenges. The goal is to utilise the funds sustainably to improve the lives of South Africans, generating long-lasting positive impacts for individuals and communities. Dis-Chem’s 22 000 staff members voted for causes close to their hearts, leading to the first initiative being directed towards CMJAH’s pulmonary department.

Morais added that this investment signified a symbol of hope and unity. It underscores the strength of coming together to drive positive change and inspire a nation. Dis-Chem remains committed to directing the pledged R12m to invest in momentum change, taking the newfound sense of hope as a catalyst for a better tomorrow.

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