Thursday, 30 May, 2024
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Gauteng claims surgery backlog cleared

Gauteng Health says it has cleared its massive backlog of 37 000 operations, including of stoma reversals – completing 100 of these procedures in March during its marathon surgical campaign, although the DA is sceptical of the claim.

Rinae Munyae (34)mfrom Soweto was one of the patients to benefit from the marathon, launched in July 2023, having been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease in November 2022 and subsequently needing a stoma while he recovered from surgery.

The stoma was a temporary measure, writes Yoliswa Sobuwa for Health-e News. Munyae was meant to have stoma reversal surgery to close the opening in mid-January 2023, six weeks after his operation.

But instead, he had to wait a year – being number 200 in the queue of patients awaiting the procedure.

Early last month his life returned to normal when he was one of 100 patients to have the procedure.

According to the department, its backlog of surgical cases has now been cleared, thousands of operations having been performed between January and March this year.

Spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said most were general surgeries (more than 22 000), 8 000 were orthopaedic, and more than 5 000 were cataract procedures.

But DA spokesperson for health in the province Jack Bloom said there was “no way all backlogs have been eliminated”.

“Every day I get calls from patients about delayed surgery. The department is giving misleading figures because of the upcoming election. We need good management at all hospitals, with proper staffing and functional equipment to cut the backlogs, which are causing immense suffering.”

The department blamed the backlog on multiple factors, one being the Covid-19 lockdown when elective surgeries were put on hold and only emergency operations were allowed. Beyond that, load-shedding and frequent water interruptions also caused delays, it said.

Consequences of stoma delays

Munyae told Health-e News that the year-long wait for his stoma reversal was difficult, because he was unable to work and had no source of income.

Even more challenging was the added cost of living with a stoma. And often, he would arrive at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to find it was out of stock of the vital bags.

“I’d be lucky to get two stoma bags,” said Munyae. “Mostly, they would say there were none available. I had to get money from my parents to buy them from the pharmacy: R1 000 for 10 bags.”

To deal with the shortage, he decided to limit what he ate to avoid upsetting his stomach.

“One bag can last for three days. But if you sweat, it loses (the adhesive) glue and you have to change it. So I spent most of my time at home doing nothing, and also made sure I avoided food that upset my stomach. My life revolved around the bag.”

Unknown number

Faizel Jacobs, general manager at the South African Society of Stomates (SASS), an advocacy organisation formed by ostomates, said the number of people with stomas in South Africa was unknown.

“With no real registry … we can only speculate.”

The organisation has been sounding the alarm over the shortage of stoma bags in hospitals across the province since last year.

On the reversal procedures, he said it was mainly public health facilities that experienced delays in the operations.

“Patients with medical aid can afford decent healthcare in the private sector, but the state does not have a minimum standard of care for ostomates,” he said.

Without medical aid cover, people have few, or no, options.

Munyae and his parents looked into private care, despite not having medical aid. They were told that a stoma reversal operation could cost them around R55 000.

“I had no choice but to wait for a date from Bara,” he said.


Health-e News article – Stoma reversal: year-long wait as province tackles surgical backlog (Creative Commons Licence)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Lack of supplies and care for desperate SA stoma patients


Surgery marathons to tackle Gauteng backlogs


Colostomy bag shortage at Gauteng hospital ‘violates human rights’


Colostomy bag stock still erratic at Gauteng hospitals







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