Mediclinic has an ongoing involvement in public-private initiatives. Working together to alleviate surgical backlogs means a brighter future for everyone.

Mediclinic has a long legacy of partnering with the public sector to alleviate long waiting lists. “These collaborations are about far more than addressing surgical backlogs – they’re about touching lives and, in some cases, saving lives together,” says Bob Govender, Industry Affairs Executive, Mediclinic Southern Africa. “Our ongoing involvement in these public- private initiatives also means that we have the opportunity to add collaborative value beyond our traditional patient base.” To date, Mediclinic has assisted more than 800 state patients requiring medical procedures – ranging from ENT to urology, cataracts, orthopaedic surgeries, and more. Govender says all healthcare stakeholders need to work together to relieve the pressures experienced in the public sector. “It must remain a priority for everyone in the healthcare sector to find South African solutions to our healthcare challenges.”

Changing lives

Until recently, 16-year-old Noxolo Makhaza, a learner at Windsor Secondary School in Ladysmith, hated looking in the mirror. “It made me sad,” she says. “I knew I was different from my classmates because my spine was crooked.” Although family and friends never drew attention to her deformity, she knew there was something seriously wrong with her back. “I found it difficult to run or jump and I had pain when I slept,” she recalls. “But most of all I always wanted to change the way I looked.”

Two years ago, Dr Alberto Puddu, a spinal surgeon at Greys Hospital, a public healthcare facility in Pietermaritzburg, had diagnosed Noxolo with scoliosis. Scoliosis is a three-dimensional deformity of the spine that can be corrected with major surgery, improving the patient’s wellbeing and self-confidence about their appearance. The problem is that state patients like Noxolo are subject to long waiting lists due to surgical backlogs.

A high burden of disease and trauma cases means state hospitals often have to shift elective (non- emergency) patients off their theatre lists, which means that their surgery is delayed. Although scoliosis surgery is not considered an emergency, if the condition is untreated, it can worsen throughout adulthood into a deformity that severely affects the patient’s quality of life. In some cases, untreated scoliosis can progress to the point of pushing against the heart and/ or lungs, causing cardiopulmonary problems.

bob govender

“Our ongoing involvement in public-private initiatives means we have the opportunity to add collaborative value beyond our traditional patient base.”

– Bob Govender, Industry Affairs Executive, Mediclinic Southern Africa.

Surgical backlogs in public sector

“Doctors in state hospitals are usually really committed to the cause [of patients],” says Dr Puddu. “We want to make a real difference and serve underprivileged patients in an academic environment.” Greys Hospital offers exceptional specialist skills, but a catchment area of more than 4.5 million people means it simply has too many patients.

The demand for beds at Greys Hospital is very high, Dr Puddu confirms. “I knew I could operate more – but I needed more theatre and ICU time,” he explains. “Spinal patients also require excellent postoperative high care to control their pain effectively. That’s why I reached out to Mediclinic to see if we could work together.”

Commitment to help

Good things are happening as a result. Mediclinic is covering the costs of nursing and intraoperative consumables, plus the pre– and postoperative bed and care for 26 spinal surgery patients from Greys Hospital. Eminent anaesthetists in the state sector, Professors Reitze Rodseth and David Bishop, have also volunteered their time and expertise for the cause.

To date, Dr Puddu has operated on eight state patients at Mediclinic in Pietermaritzburg, including Noxolo. All these spinal patients received one-on-one postoperative nursing care in the high-care ward and were transferred back to Greys via ER24 private ambulance once their pain was under control.

For Dr Puddu and others involved in the ongoing collaboration between private and public health, this makes everything worthwhile. “It’s so rewarding when a patient comes in smiling and walks up to you and gives you a hug,” he says.

Mediclinic remains committed to its long-term vision of expanding access to quality care across southern Africa. We will continue to investigate and take up public-private opportunities across the sector as we strive to make a significant contribution.


How we helped in 2022

  • Mediclinic has invested ±R55m in CSI activities between 1 January and 31 December 2022.
  • ER24 transported ±7 383 indigent patients at a cost of ±R41.5m.
  • 169 pro bono surgical procedures performed (cleft palate, cardiac, cataract, orthopaedic and general surgery) to the value of ±R10.2m.
  • Donations of furniture and equipment to 140 NGOs and community organisations worth a total of ±R3.5m.
  • 447 trauma counselling interventions for 3 schools to the value of ±R0.4m.

- Extract from the Transformation Publication 2023