Doctors volunteer to clear backlog in Limpopo

MEC for health Phophi Ramathuba.
MEC for health Phophi Ramathuba.
Image: Antonio Muchave

A group of medical specialists from different provinces have rescued Limpopo's health system from an orthopaedic surgery backlog by volunteering to operate on patients during their spare time.

Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba yesterday confirmed that the province was free from backlogs for surgeries such as hip replacements, open reductions and hand surgeries.

"Right now we have no hip surgeries waiting to be referred to George Mukhari or Steve Biko [hospitals] in Gauteng. Orthopaedic surgeries used to be a nightmare for us in this province," Ramathuba said.

She said 96 patients from various facilities such as Mokopane, Pietersburg and Voortrekker hospitals were operated on at the weekend alone.

Ramathuba said 700 people have benefited since the outreach project started two years ago.

She said the province had a historical problem of backlogs which contributed to medico-legal claims and unnecessary disabilities.

"The situation was bad. You would have people stuck at the hospital for three to six months waiting for surgery. One of the challenges is that in a rural province such as Limpopo it is difficult to attract and retain specialists," Ramathuba said.

She said two years ago she appealed to people such as Dr Steven Matshidza, who originates from Limpopo, to plough back into the community by offering their free time.

Ramathuba said Matshidza, who now heads the outreach project, recruited other doctors to assist.

"They are not asking us to pay them. We only assist with transport and accommodation. They are doing this out of love for our people," she said.

Ramathuba said the doctors worked tirelessly, operating on patients from 7am until 3am.

She said some of the cases were complicated and could cost patients hundreds of thousands in the private sector.

The MEC said the need for orthopaedic surgeries in the province was increased by the high number of road accidents.

"A lot of people end up being disabled because we cannot provide surgical intervention for them," she said.

Ramathuba said the project was also meant to attract new talent as the specialists bring final-year students during the missions.

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