Eastern Cape doctors have to choose which babies they can help
Eastern Cape doctors are forced to choose which babies receive life-saving healthcare as there is no one available in the province’s public sector who can undertake certain operations – and beds in other provinces are limited.
Eastern Cape health department deputy director-general for clinical and support services, Dr Rolene Wagner, said they were experiencing “a challenge” with respect to performing elective operations on children born with cardiac abnormalities.
“This is a highly specialised field of surgery with very few experts in this field available in our province and country.“To date, we have referred our patients to the Red Cross Hospital to assist us with providing urgent and emergency surgery for these children.“Unfortunately, the Red Cross Hospital as a central hospital receives referrals from across the country and is not always able to accept and assist us with all of our patients on the waiting list,” she said.Wagner said a child who was critically ill had been referred to Life St George’s Hospital for surgery earlier in May.“We concluded the child was unlikely to survive the trip to Cape Town,” she said.She said this was the reason for their “drastic decision” to pay for the child to have surgery at a private hospital.“The decision to operate on this child was not about the timing of arrival in the ward, it was about the clinical severity of the condition that required immediate surgery to save that child’s life,” Wagner said.She said they could not afford to send all the children currently waiting for heart surgery to private hospitals.“It is not an affordable or sustainable option. For this reason, the state is appointing a cardiothoracic surgeon with the relevant expertise on a sessional basis in the interim, but also training more specialists.“We are pleased to announce that Livingstone Hospital has just been awarded a Discovery grant specifically to assist us in developing the relevant paediatric cardiothoracic expertise for our province,” Wagner said.“This means that more children can be operated on within the state service, allowing the team to intervene earlier and ensure we save more lives in good time.”According to sources at Dora Nginza Hospital, doctors have literally been begging hospital management to step in and do something about the babies who are “hanging on for dear life”.One of them, eight-monthold Luvolwethu Mana, has a duplicated aorta and turns blue and stops breathing without any warning.Her mom Gloria Mana, 33, said they had been told that all they could do was wait.“You can play with her one minute, and the next she will turn blue,” Mana said.“She will stop breathing. The last time it happened even the nurses were very upset.“It took them a long time to bring her back.