Government inaction puts Eastern Cape children's lives at risk

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Close to 60 children at Port Elizabeth’s Dora Nginza Hospital, some critically ill, have been waiting for a medical procedure for almost two years after the Eastern Cape Health Department failed to replace a broken-down catheterisation laboratory at the centre for cardiothoracic surgery in the province.

Daily Maverick reports that the cath lab, located at the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital, broke in October 2018 and since then a tragic series of lies, obfuscations, political thuggery and administrative bungles has seen a major crisis developing at Dora Nginza Hospital where the paediatrics department is based.

The Eastern Cape Health Department claims that the cath lab was to be handed over to the hospital at the end of this month – almost 10 months after it was scheduled to open in November 2019. But the department’s communications director, Siyanda Manana, added that they have to provide training to staff. He said the cath lab will only open in November this year.

Daily Maverick reports that most of the children, including babies who are only a few months old, need heart surgery, but without angiograms – images of the heart produced in the cath lab – even the most willing of heart surgeons can do nothing: at this stage, the department does not even have a paediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon and patients have to rely on a surgeon in private practice who does sessions at the hospital.

Three of the children have developed pulmonary hypertension, a life-threatening condition where the arteries to the lungs become hard and narrow. All of them have just had their first birthday without getting access to the medical help they need. A five-month-old has been placed high on the list, with severe complications including congestive heart failure. Some have been diagnosed with severe failure to thrive due to their heart conditions that cannot be addressed.

Ten of the little patients are Down Syndrome babies born with heart conditions and are at a much greater risk of pulmonary hypertension.

Thirty children are in need of diagnostic angiograms, with 18 of them needing surgery for large heart defects. These patients have been flagged as being at the highest risk of developing irreversible pulmonary hypertension. Others need smaller surgeries.

Twenty-two need non-invasive interventions to close small holes in the heart or other procedures. Doctors said this week that since the list was produced several more cases were added and it now stands at more than 60.


Full Daily Maverick report

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