An astounding 36 237 patients are on the waiting lists for operations in Gauteng public hospitals, with a waiting period of five years for some types of surgery.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
Chris Hani Baragwanath has the largest waiting list – 10 900 patients in total, including 1777 patients who will wait 4 years and five months for hip and knee replacements.
Other hospitals with long waiting lists for surgery include the following:
• George Mukhari Hospital – 5979 patients
• Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital – 3132 patients
• Sebokeng Hospital – 2977 patients
• Mamelodi Hospital – 2570 patients
• Steve Biko Hospital – 1921 patients
• Thelle Mogoerane Hospital – 1070 patients
• Tembisa Hospital – 1023 patients
• Pholosong Hospital- 832 patients
• Tambo Memorial Hospital – 804 patients
• Leratong Hospital – 733 patients
• Far East Rand Hospital – 708 patients
• Kalafong Hospital – 584 patients
The largest backlogs are in cataract surgery, with more than 10 000 patients who will wait up to two years at the Steve Biko and George Mukhari hospitals, but six months or less at the Tembisa, Kalafong, Pholosong and Mamelodi hospitals.
The worst waiting times are for hip and knee replacements, which will mostly take from two to five years although some hospitals do them in less than a year.
Nkomo-Ralehoko says the Covid-19 pandemic drastically increased the surgery backlog as elective procedures were halted.
Other factors identified include:
1. Delays in the procurement of specialised machinery
2. Delayed renovations of operating theatres
3. Mass exodus of skilled staff to overseas countries and to the private health sector
4. The number of foreign nationals
5. Delays in the filling of critical posts.
Load-shedding has also adversely impacted surgery, and linen shortages often cause operations to be cancelled.
Some hospitals have done well with surgery marathons in reducing the backlogs e.g. Kalafong hospital eliminated their cataract backlog by doing 151 cataract surgeries in October last year.
It’s a vast human tragedy that so many people suffer in pain while waiting for surgery. While Covid was a setback, the huge backlogs are largely due to years of incompetence and corruption.
Premier Panyaza Lesufi should recognise it as a provincial crisis that requires a plan with adequate resources to relieve the medical misery of so many people.