Orthopaedic backlog in Mpumalanga at over 2 300

2015-02-15 21:16
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Mbombela - With only one specialist surgeon employed to serve all 33 of Mpumalanga’s public hospitals, the backlog of state patients awaiting orthopaedic surgery has risen to more than 2 300.

The Mpumalanga department of health confirmed to African Eye News Service that the backlog has more than doubled in seven months.

“People come into our hospitals with fractures every day, but we only have one orthopaedic surgeon, so the waiting list keeps getting longer. We are highly concerned about this,” said department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule.

The province’s only government-employed orthopaedic surgeon is based at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela.

Hundreds of patients from as far as 250km away are referred to the hospital for treatment, but most are either turned away or wait for months to undergo procedures.

Malamule said that the department was "desperately trying all avenues" to lure surgeons to the province.

“When we find them, we don’t agree on financial terms and benefits as they are being given better packages in other provinces. As government we are also competing with the private sector, which also offers better remuneration packages,” said Malamule.

He added that a better retention strategy needed to be implemented to keep doctors in the province.

Former Mpumalanga state orthopaedic surgeon Dr Andre Trotsky, for example, left the hospital in August last year to take up a more lucrative position in the Western Cape.

“It is not only the issue of finding them; it’s also to keep them here. They need to know they have accommodation, a good working environment and benefits. The department is working on this strategy,” Malamule said.

Malamule said that ideally, each of Mpumalanga’s 33 state hospitals should have at least one orthopaedic surgeon.

“If the budget allowed for that, it would be ideal and go quite some way to erasing the backlog,” he said.

A source who works at Rob Ferreira, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said that many orthopaedic patients who aren’t treated could be prone to lifelong disability.

“The bones could heal incorrectly and cause disability, and patients are also at risk of bone infection, which is a very serious condition,” said the source.

The source added that all the beds in the orthopaedic ward at Rob Ferreira are full, with some patients having been at the hospital for three months. Operating equipment and x-ray machines are also routinely out of order, increasing the backlog further.

“It’s hugely costly to have a patient just sitting there; it costs around R2 000 per day for the hospital. It’s been a problem for years and the patients are sick of it.

"Some even went on their own protest last year calling for the department to help them, but nothing has been done,” said the source.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  health

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