The number of patients waiting for surgery at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has jumped from 7288 last year to 11 194, with some patients told they will have to wait until December 2026 for their operation.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
There are 3394 cataract patients who will wait for a year to regain their sight.
The worst waiting time is for 1777 people who need hip and knee replacements – they will wait for four-and-a-half years!
And 1304 children will wait 6 months for surgery.
In the case of prostate cancer the delay can be life-threatening as 243 patients will wait for 24-36 months for surgery.
According to Mokgethi, the long waiting lists are due to the following:
- Inadequate theatre time
- Non-availability if post-op ICU/HCU bed
- Infrastructure issues such as non-functioning autoclaves, power outage, dysfunctional boilers
- Prolonged closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital trauma unit due to the fire
- Non-functioning of the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital theatres where elective cataract and minor surgery can be done
Another factor is that 1786 operations were cancelled or deferred last year for various reasons.
The department blames the Covid-19 pandemic for the growing waiting lists, but better management would fix issues like broken equipment.
For many patients, it can take many months before they are diagnosed and placed on the waiting list, so their suffering is immense.
Some waiting lists only get shorter because patients die while waiting.
Surgery blitzes in the evenings and on weekends will help to cut the lists, and private hospitals can be paid to do surgery for public patients.