Home South African Huge surgery backlog at public hospitals

Huge surgery backlog at public hospitals


Neither the Eastern Cape nor the Northern Cape indicated measures taken to address the surgery backlogs.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla.

HOSPITALS across the country are increasing theatre times and even providing theatre services during weekends to wipe out a 107,818 surgery backlog emanating from the delays caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

In a response to a parliamentary question, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the Western Cape was leading with the highest number of surgeries at 77,139, followed by Gauteng with 13,433.

The backlogs in the Eastern Cape stood at 5,373 while North West had 5,531, Limpopo 4,229, Free State 1,923 and Mpumalanga 190.

Those of KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape were not given because the department was “waiting for response”.

Phaahla was responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Susan Thembekwayo, who asked the total number of backlogs on surgeries at hospitals across the country as a result of the delays caused by Covid-19.

Asked about steps taken to deal with the backlogs, the minister said various measures were in place nationwide. “Operations increased by dedicated budget increase and efficiency gains,” he said, with reference to the 38 hospitals in the Western Cape.

Phaahla said “catch-up” had been done by increasing theatre times with elective slates being done over the weekend and camps also planned.

“Emergencies are given priority. (There is) maximum utilisation of theatres with added slates on weekends.”

Phaahla said all hospitals in Mpumalanga had rescheduled all non-emergency operations.

“The suspension of operating non-emergency cases was lifted, and operations are back to normal. Shortage of specialists, however, also contributes to the backlog,” he said.

The tertiary hospitals conducted outreach services where minor orthopaedic operations in the district hospitals were performed, the minister added.

Phaahla also said North West hospitals were providing theatre services during the weekends and had extended hours to reduce backlogs.

There was “utilisation of all available theatres to improve efficiency” and public-private partnership where it was feasible, he said.

The minister said Free State hospitals were also increasing theatre times, prioritising according to severity or quality of life as well as conducting a blitz over weekends and outreach to district hospitals.

In Limpopo, lists of patients were co-ordinated by the tertiary hospitals that had information on those in need of surgery.

Phaahla said the district outreach surgical teams provided services once a week per quarter and spent time in the district conducting various surgeries utilising all hospitals.

“A team of volunteers from other provinces form part of the outreach teams. Through the NHI Grant, public patients are taken to accredited private service providers where surgery is conducted as part of addressing the surgical backlog.”

Phaahla also said the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Gauteng had introduced an electronic theatre booking system.

The Dr George Mkhari Academic Hospital planned for procedures that could be done at a lower level of care once Covid-19 numbers declined.

“Outreach is only done if the cluster hospital allocates the anaesthetist; otherwise the bookings will be cancelled.”

Phaahla said the Steve Biko Academic Hospital was utilising other facilities within the cluster for procedures appropriate to each hospital while Tembisa hospital has re-purposed and re-allocated Covid-19 theatre back to general surgery and re-allocated a second theatre for ophthalmology.

The hospital has allocated extra theatre on Fridays for urology and renovated the burns theatre to increase the number of functional theatres.

He also said the Kalafong Hospital had dedicated specific “catch-up” days for surgical cataract marathons in ophthalmology and an additional orthopaedics list on Fridays.

Neither the Eastern Cape nor the Northern Cape indicated measures taken to address the surgery backlogs.

Cape Times

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