Crucial PE cardiac facility remains closed after 17-month EC Health bungle

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It has been 17 months since the cardiac catheterisation laboratory (cath lab) at the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital broke down, leading to the collapse of ground-breaking programmes to help children at the public hospital, and, says a Daily Maverick report, there is still no indication of when the Eastern Cape Health intends reopening it.

The report says it took the Eastern Cape Health more than four months to answer questions on the delays, with the department’s communications director, Siyanda Manana, saying they can no longer provide a date for the reopening of the facility. Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba’s special adviser promised the MEC would assess progress and comment soon.

Once the leading facility in the public sector to help children who were born with heart defects to receive non-invasive surgery, the service in Port Elizabeth has all but collapsed, with parents now having to travel to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town or to Mthatha.

The report says apart from treating adults who suffered heart attacks or need non-invasive surgeries, the state hospital cath lab was home to a programme started by the current dean of South Africa’s newest faculty of health sciences at Nelson Mandela University, Dr Lungile Pepeta, to provide children with congenital heart disease with a non-invasive surgery option to have small defects fixed. In his research work, Pepeta highlighted the need for such a facility as there is a high incidence of congenital heart defects in children in the Eastern Cape and also high numbers of children suffering heart damage due to undiagnosed rheumatic fever.

The cath lab was also the centre of South Africa’s first paediatric electrophysiology department in the public sector, with Dr Adele Greyling treating children who had heart rhythm disturbances. Patients were sent to her from all over South Africa.

The report says in 2017 the now suspended CEO of Livingstone Hospital and the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital, Thulane Madonsela, said they were aware that the cath lab had come to the end of its life. In October 2018, after several warnings from doctors, the cath lab finally broke and was declared beyond repair. Madonsela was suspended in November, and the hospital complex has been without a permanent CEO since then.

The report says in January this year, Manana said they no longer have a date for the reopening of the cath lab. Hospital sources confirmed last week that there had been a meeting to discuss the delays in opening the cath lab.

Full Daily Maverick report

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