DA KZN:  Public patients waiting up to three years for joint replacements

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

Patients needing hip and knee replacements, as well as cataract operations at KZN provincial hospitals are, in some instances forced to wait up to three years for surgery.

This is according to a Durban-based orthopaedic surgeon in a provincial hospital.  According to the same doctor, in a small portion of cases these operations are performed within six months.  The statistics exclude trauma cases.

Almost four months ago the DA submitted written parliamentary questions to KZN’s Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo on this issue.  This was as a result of several complaints from members of the public around prolonged delays for such treatment at KZN’s provincial hospitals.

According to parliamentary rules, the MEC should have answered the question within two weeks.   To date there is no response forthcoming.

Knee and hip joints are replaced for a range of reasons including trauma, damage or destruction of the joint cartilage possibly due to arthritis, obesity, infection, gout, a condition abbreviated as AVN [Avascular necrosis] and in some rare cases due to bone tumours.

Prolonging often elderly and weak patient’s excruciating and life-altering suffering, especially for such extended periods, should not have to be endured by anyone.

While the DA acknowledges there may be criteria to determine positions on the waiting list, we are of the strong view that the primary cause for this delay is financial.  For us to believe otherwise, the DoH would have to present compelling evidence to the contrary.

It is also our firm belief that the department is pre-occupied with filling “Red-Tape” bureaucratic positions rather than ensuring effective service delivery and easing people’s suffering.

The non-intake of new registrars this year will worsen the problems associated with surgery delays and the department is set to increasingly bear the brunt of its ill-fated decisions which, as in this case, will become more obvious with time.

The DA urges the department to;

–          Ensure that it makes finances available to urgently procure the protheses for these joint replacements

–          Negotiate a reasonable rate for the services of surgeons at private hospitals – the department is currently guilty of paying private practitioners in excess of 200% of the medical rate in many instances.  This is unacceptable and must stop!

–          Work swiftly to lessen delays, shorten the excessively long and growing waiting list and limit patients’ suffering.

We sincerely hope that the KZN Health department will look seriously at these suggestions.  It must change its uncaring ways, start putting patients first and move quickly to ensure that everything feasible is done to alleviate this situation as soon as possible.