Mandela Day Surgeries project returns

At the relaunch of the Mandela Day Surgeries project, from left are Bob Govender from Mediclinic, provincial health department head Dr Keith Cloete, recovered patient Liam Dyason, Groote Schuur Hospital CEO Dr Bhavna Patel and Mediclinic’s Gale Shabangu.

Public and private hospitals are teaming up again for the return of the Mandela Day Surgeries project, which this year will be helping state patients who are still awaiting surgical procedures that were stalled by the impact of the pandemic.

The provincial health department launched this year’s project at Groote Schuur Hospital on Monday July 17. The campaign aims to provide life-changing surgeries to 300-to-350 patients from now until the end of next month.

“This is an ideal opportunity where the resources of public health care and private health care can be shared without causing financial hardship to the patients,” said provincial health department head Dr Keith Cloete.

According to Dr Cloete, the department started the campaign in 2017, performing 67 surgeries that year. The number increased to 100 in 2018 and 250 in 2019. But the pandemic disrupted the health-care system in 2020, 2021 and last year and the project was put on hold.

“It was disruptive, though it gave the health-care system the opportunity to reset and recalibrate on how we deliver service,” said Dr Cloete.

This year the campaign will provide pregnancy-prevention surgeries for 150 women; 170 cataract surgeries; 19 general surgical procedures; nine ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeries; and seven plastic-surgery procedures.

Bob Govender from private-hospital group Mediclinic said: “The provincial health department and hospitals will provide the transportation of their patients to our hospitals, and we provide the hospital stay, we provide the medication, and everything related to their treatment.”

Mediclinic would also provide theatre space for any public hospitals that did not have available facilities to perform a surgery, he said.

Groote Schuur CEO Dr Bhavna Patel said few patients had the benefit of a medical aid.

“At the moment, our hospital, Tygerberg Hospital and Eerste River hospital, are doing 4000 operations per year, so anything extra with help of funding will help reduce the backlog as it just carries over to the following year.”

Liam Dyason, 65, a retired fitter and turner from Ottery, who had knee-replacement surgery at Victoria Hospital, last June, was at the launch of the project, and he described how he had injured his knee more than 30 years ago while playing soccer.

“My ligaments snapped in the inside of my knee. I continued playing sports though it aggravated the injury further,” he said.

Mr Dyason had applied to be part of the Mandela Day Surgeries project of 2019 and was contacted by Groote Schuur last year and offered surgery. He added that while the rehabilitation had been difficult, the procedure had improved his quality of life.

Patient, Liam Dyason describes how knee-replacement surgery changed his life.