How SA’s state hospitals are addressing elective procedures backlog

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As hospital visits were limited during lockdown, this meant surgical procedures such as gallbladder removals, cataracts, elective removal of tonsils and elective knee replacements, among others, were postponed. Spotlight reports that just over 680,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in South Africa. But, critically, the rate of new cases and hospitalisations has dropped dramatically from over 10,000 new cases a day a few months ago to about 1,000 a day – with hospitalisation rates having shown similarly dramatic declines. These dwindling numbers have enabled many hospitals to start the catch-up plans to deal with the backlog in surgical procedures.

Spotlight reports that the Western Cape and Gauteng provided detailed information on how they were addressing the backlog, while information from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal was more vague.

In the Western Cape, elective procedures started and have gradually increased since August. However, hospitals in the province are not back at pre-lockdown levels yet, and operations are still carefully scaled up to ensure continued vigilance to manage COVID-19 exposure. Spotlight understands staff members who were doing COVID-19-related work have now returned to their regular work duties at many health facilities.

The Gauteng Health Department said Baragwanath Hospital, working together with Bheki Mlangeni Hospital, has carried out elective surgeries that were put on hold during the stricter levels of lockdown.

And, Neil Shikwambana, the spokesperson for the Limpopo Health Department, is quoted in Spotlight as saying the province has already started with outreach to regional hospitals to deal with the surgical backlog for major surgeries that are mainly carried out at Pietersburg-Mankweng Hospital complex. “We are currently using (a) manual system and we have 12 surgical disciplines. We are unable to quantify the number of operations deferred due to COVID-19,” said Shikwambana.

Spotlight reports that KwaZulu-Natal Health spokesperson, Ntokozo Maphisa, says the department is implementing its recovery plan. All operations and procedures that were postponed as a result of COVID-19 have now been gradually increased.

Full Spotlight report

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