Limpopo’s first heart operation in 23 years

A team of surgeons perform an open heart surgery at Mankweng Hospital in Limpopo.
A team of surgeons perform an open heart surgery at Mankweng Hospital in Limpopo.
Image: LIMPOPO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

The first open heart surgery to be performed in Limpopo in 23 years signifies that a drive by the provincial health department to hire more specialists is paying off.

On Monday, the head of clinical services at Mankweng Hospital, Dr Seshoka Muila, said the surgery, which was performed on a 42-year-old female patient and led by professor Lucas Mohlala, was a breakthrough for the province.

The surgery was last performed in the province in 1996.

“This means that we are going to reduce transfers to Gauteng hospitals and patients will start to get intervention as early as possible,” Muila said.

He said on average the hospital has to transfer 60 adult and paediatric patients a month to get surgery at Gauteng facilities.

Muila said the initiative to hire and retain specialists in the province would help reduce the number of referrals and costs.

He said this will also position the hospital as a place of learning for medical students who are studying at the University of Limpopo’s School of Medicine.

“This will ensure that we produce well-rounded doctors,” he said.

Muila said this would also encourage public hospitals in other provinces such as Mpumalanga and North West to retain specialist skills, which help them avoid having to refer patients to other provinces for treatment.

He said they had also recruited other specialists, including a paediatric surgeon and a plastic surgeon.

“We want this to spread to all rural hospitals. Rural as we are, we can do these things,” he said.

Muila, who monitored the surgery, said the procedure was conducted to remove a tumour from the patient’s heart.

He said the operation involved administering anesthesia to the patient in order to put them to sleep before making an incision down the middle of the chest.

Muila said the heart had to be stopped for one hour and 45 minutes to allow the surgeon to remove the tumour.

He said the patient was doing well after surgery and would be discharged soon.

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said the surgery was an indication that public health in the province was improving.

“We have been on a drive to recruit specialists so that in the long term we should stop referring our patients to other provinces. Where we are still lacking we partner with specialists from other provinces to come and treat our people here in the province,” Ramathuba said.

She further congratulated the team responsible for the surgery.

Ramathuba announced in January that the department would hire 28 specialists in an effort to reduce surgical backlogs. At the time there were 2,500 patients who needed surgery.

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