Gauteng health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi says at least 205 Steve Biko Academic Hospital patients have been waiting for surgeries since 2010.
She was responding to questions by the DA’s Jack Bloem at the province’s legislature.
Mokgethi said the orthopaedics department had the most number of patients waiting for surgery.
The 205 patients are on the waiting list at the Tshwane-based hospital for maxillo-facial surgeries, such as the repair of cleft palates.
At least 638 patients waiting for hip, knee, spinal or feet operations may only go under the knife in about two years. Even worse, some 385 children are on the surgery waiting list.
Mokgethi admitted that general and urology surgery patients must wait between eight to 12 months before their operations.
“The best performing departments are neurosurgery and cardiothoracic, where the turnaround is only two weeks,” said Mokgethi.
News of the surgery backlog comes after last week’s report that state hospitals’ clean linen supply was in dire straits, meaning doctors in various hospitals across the province are unable to perform elective surgeries.
A doctor had told The Citizen last Thursday that hospital staff could not perform “a single elective case because there’s no linen in theatre”.
The MEC has partly blamed the backlog on the Covid-19 pandemic, saying only urgent and semi-urgent cases were done because beds were reserved for Covid patients during the peak periods.
But the hospital is also facing a shortage of ICU and theatre nurses.
The hospital has also taken on additional surgeries that should be done at lower-level hospitals in the Tshwane area.
“I am concerned that so many patients at this major hospital suffer in pain waiting for surgery. How can cleft palate sufferers be expected to wait 10 years for corrective surgery? This is utterly inhuman,” said Bloem.
Bloem said even though delays were understandable due to Covid-19, the government should have filled nursing vacancies to ease the pressure.
The DA wants the provincial health department tp explore hiring extra staff and keeping theatres operational “round the clock” to reduce surgery waiting times.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney