SAVING OUR EMERGENCY SERVICES

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

A top surgeon wrote to me following the brutal murder of former boxing champion Corrie Sanders.

He said I was right to question whether Sanders had been let down by our public health system in his time of need.

He noted that the performance of a medical trauma service could determine the severity of the charges against arrested suspects.

We will never know whether Sanders could have been saved by expert medical care.

But if so, the accused would have been charged with attempted murder, rather than murder.

Blood loss is the usual cause of death after trauma.

Experts say that Princess Diana could have survived her car accident if she had received more competent and speedy medical care.

She had a torn pulmonary artery, but French paramedics dithered as to where she should be transferred as a VIP.

The surgical profession is emotionally and physically demanding.

Trauma surgery is particularly grueling, including long and after hours work.

But medical graduates increasingly opt for more comfortable career directions within medicine.

My surgeon correspondent links this to the trend of women outnumbering men in medical schools.

In England, a shortage of medical specialists was developing because more than 60% of medical students were female.

Many women drop out of the profession, don’t further their medical training or choose options which allow them to combine family and professional activities.

The percentage of female admissions to British medical schools was therefore limited.

Another issue is that raw strength is often required in trauma surgery, especially with a muscular and heavy patient.

The adage that a surgeon needs the heart of a lion and the hands of a woman is not always applicable.

In South Africa, it’s interesting that 165 out of 180 first year medical students at the University of Cape Town are female.

This is because of an over-emphasis on school marks, rather than other relevant factors.

The Chris Barnards of a previous era would probably not get into this medical school.

They would have a better chance at the Wits Medical School which takes a more balanced approach.

My surgeon’s views are undoubtedly sincere and well-informed, even if politically incorrect.

He concludes his letter to me as follows:

“Whether you approve of surgical personalities or disapprove of a male dominated field the fact remains that surgeons perform a very essential service. In an hour of need one may need an available, decisive, physically and emotionally strong, competent individual. Corrie Sanders needed one. The health care system must train and appoint suitable candidates to provide for this need and into the future.”

I hope that this plea is heard, but emergency services also need competent paramedics and ambulance drivers with functioning vehicles.

The whole chain needs to work, including quick communication to dispatch ambulances to the right place.

Gauteng has a very poor ambulance service, with many patients waiting hours before being picked up.

It’s so bad in Johannesburg that they refuse to supply response times to the province.

Provincial intervention has been crippled because there has been no permanent head of Gauteng emergency services for two years.

It’s a scandalous situation that needs to be turned around as soon as possible.

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