On Saturday, 1 December 2018, ten state patients will be the first in the province to benefit from collaborative surgeries between Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg and Northdale Hospital. This is part of a long-standing national partnership aimed at relieving the burden on public waiting lists for key procedures, where Mediclinic utilises spare capacity to accelerate much needed public sector procedures.

Dr Nick Davey, an ophthalmologist associated with Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg, will perform the surgeries on a pro bono basis while Dr Neeran Narainswamy, from Greys Hospital, will assist with patient follow ups. A further 30 cataract surgeries are scheduled for early next year as an extension of the KZN collaboration. The Mediclinic surgical facilities and nursing staff are also offered on a pro bono basis as part of this relationship with the provincial health department.

Mediclinic has partnered with the department of health in a number of provinces in order to assist in reducing the waiting lists for key surgeries. To date surgeries have taken place in the Western Cape, Limpopo and Free State provinces with KZN coming on board with the assistance of Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg. “We are so excited to join this collaboration. We have heard so many stories about changed lives over the last two years, and we are now able to contribute meaningfully to members of our own community,” says Tabitha Lolliot, Hospital General Manager of Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg. “We are exceptionally grateful to Dr Keith Wimble, who has been invaluable in pursuing the relationship between private and public sectors in our region – as a GP who has given so much to the community - it is heartening to see his work come to fruition through this partnership.”

To ensure that the most appropriate patients are being identified and assisted, Mediclinic receives patient lists compiled by the partnering public health facility, where individuals are selected from their respective waiting lists. The doctor in private practice then assesses the patients prior to the day of surgery. As cataracts surgery is a minor procedure, only local anaesthetic is required and the surgery is completed relatively quickly. Patients are then discharged the same day, with a follow up visit with an ophthalmologist soon after.

For the first time, Right to Sight, a registered PBO, will be contributing to the collaboration, through a sponsorship of the lenses for each procedure. Their trust aims to enable financially disadvantaged patients - who are either partially sighted or blind due to untreated cataracts - to access sight saving surgery.

“It is so exciting to see what is happening across the country. We have seen through some of our previous cataract surgeries, how significant these interventions can be. From regaining independence to returning to work and earning a living – these surgeries are making a tangible difference to the individuals and their families,” says Greg van Wyk, Chief Human Resources Officer for Mediclinic Southern Africa. “Although not the basis for us being here, Pietermaritzburg is my hometown and I am proud to be part of an organisation that is giving back to communities such as this across the country.”

“More than 150 surgeries have already been performed, and we are really encouraged by how many of the provinces are opening up to us about their needs. We have covered cataract, ENT, urology and other procedures depending on the needs of that province. Mediclinic is actively working with a number of additional regions to identify their needs – and understand where Mediclinic has the capacity to assist. We would not be able to do this without the help of all our consulting specialists. These surgeons and anaesthetists have been invaluable in making the collaborations a success,” explains van Wyk.

The next set of cataract surgeries at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg are planned for 26 January 2019.