On Friday, 1 March 2019, four young patients will be undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery at Mediclinic Milnerton as one of the latest legs of the partnership between the Western Cape Department of Health and Mediclinic. The idea behind the surgery is to utilise spare capacity available in the private sector to support the long waiting lists being experienced at public hospitals, such as Groote Schuur.

As part of Mediclinic Milnerton’s contribution to relieving these surgery backlogs, the hospital will be assisting with the life-changing surgery for soft tissue knee injuries, which will be undertaken by Prof Michael Held, an orthopaedic surgeon and Head of the Knee Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Along with his Orthopaedic colleagues, as well as sports physicians and physiotherapists from Sports Science Institute at the University of Cape Town, Prof Held has established a sports injury service for athletes without health care cover (www.sos.uct.ac.za) which is housed at the Orthopaedic outpatient’s clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital. It is extremely helpful to be able to fast-track athletes who need surgical care through such a list at Mediclinic Milnerton. This will prevent chronic, irreversible and debilitating joint damage but especially for these four young athletes it will allow them to get back to their sports and work earlier.  Another benefit is that their surgery slots at Groote Schuur Hospital will now be filled with patients who cannot be operated as day cases such as complex knee trauma cases and joint replacements. A win-win for everyone.

“A list such as this places a large administrative burden on everyone and we thank all involved, management, physiotherapy departments, theatre nurses, clerks, radiology departments, occupational therapists, and doctors both from Groote Schuur Hospital and from Mediclinic Milnerton, says Dr Belinda Jacobs, Medical Services Manager of Groote Schuur Hospital.

“Usually our surgeries involve partnering with doctors from the private sector, and working on patients from the public sector waiting lists. This is only the second time that we have been able to provide the full theatre and nursing infrastructure, while welcoming a surgeon who also works in the public sector to make use of our facilities. Mediclinic is delighted that we can jointly develop real solutions to the challenges facing our counterparts,” says Bob Govender, Industry Affairs Executive for Mediclinic Southern Africa.

During the last two years Mediclinic has performed more than 200 surgeries for patients on waiting lists within the public healthcare sector. These surgeries include ENT, urology, cataract and even some heart or neuro procedures but this is the first time orthopaedic surgery will be included. The collaborative surgeries have assisted in fostering stronger relationships between the private sector and various provincial departments of health, exploring workable solutions in the move towards a more accessible healthcare system for the country.

To ensure that the most appropriate patients are being identified, Mediclinic receives the lists compiled by the partnering public health facility, in this case Groote Schuur Hospital, where patients are selected from their respective waiting lists. Patients are admitted to the Mediclinic facility on the morning of the surgery and undergo the relevant procedure under the care of the Mediclinic team.

Dr Bhavna Patel, CEO of Groote Schuur Hospital explains some of the background around the need for these surgeries. “With an increasing acute load within our hospitals due to trauma, catering for elective surgeries has in recent years become a growing challenge. Trauma cases demand prioritisation, thus pushing back elective surgery. Also within the context of diminishing resources, this is a welcome chance to catch up on some of the elective surgery and improve the quality of life of our patients.”

Kath Barry, Nursing Manager at Mediclinic Milnerton, believes that the community can only benefit from these collaborations, “This is the third set of surgeries we have performed at Mediclinic Milnerton. Each time we are able to assist a few more patients – changing their lives significantly. All this because parties were able to interact and find opportunities to assist each other.”

Mediclinic will continue to seek out opportunities to interact and support the public healthcare structure within South Africa, developing workable solutions for the challenges faced within the industry.