By Pamela Madonsela

A 17-year-old boy is one of just over 11 000 patients on the surgery waiting list at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, known as Bara, after his appointment was postponed several times.
The father of Sanele Qwabe* said that his son had developed tissues on his nipples due to side effects from his treatment. His doctors then transferred him to Bara for surgery.

Back and forth
Dad Xolani expressed his frustrations from all the unreasonable ups and downs at the hospital.
“Sanele was in the Harriet Shezi ward before being transferred to plastics in January 2022, which upon their assessment, gave us another date for two months later,” said the father. “When we arrived on the 24th of March for him to be admitted, we were told that they were only attending to emergencies. They gave us yet another date, the 14th of July,” he said. Once admitted on the given date, Xolani received a call to fetch his child because of space constraints. This was at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital, where the operating theatres are situated. The family is now anxiously waiting for the 30th of January 2023 to see if Sanele’s surgery will go ahead.

‘Various interventions’
Bara issued a statement at the end of August and said the long waiting list is being ‘managed through various interventions as part of efforts to ensure that all patients requiring surgeries are assisted accordingly. “This was an assurance given by the Gauteng MEC for Health, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, when responding to a legislature question. Bara has to date 11 194 patients awaiting to undergo surgeries in various healthcare categories,” read the statement. It further stated: “Various interventions are being used to tackle the backlogs. These include dedicated weekend surgeries, increased arthroplasty days to three days a week for hip replacement, and other joint surgeries. Further capacity will be availed once an additional theatre at the Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital is back online.”

Public health system ‘in a mess’
As a parent, Xolani said he feels helpless. “I am very angry; our public health system is really in a mess. Moreover, the child gets booked and at that point, his excitement gets to a certain level only to be turned away always when he’s supposed to be operated on. It’s so frustrating,” said Xolani.
The statement also highlighted insufficient capacity and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the factors that lead to long waiting times for operations include:
● The shortage of post-operative intensive care unit high-care unit beds
● Insufficient theatre times
● Infrastructure issues such as broken autoclaves, power outages, and dysfunctional boilers.
The COVID-19 outbreak led to the postponement of elective (planned) surgeries in the last two years as the health system was recapacitated to deal with the pandemic.
“The facility is currently working around the clock to attend to as many cases as possible to significantly reduce the backlog,” the statement concluded.

Throwing punches
Xolani said his son has questioned whether the procedure will ever take place.
“Assuring him always feels like we are rolling with the punches that Baragwanath Hospital is throwing at us which is very difficult and frustrating for us as a family,” he said. Sanele, who is a grade 11 learner, said the delay of the surgery has affected him a lot. “I don’t feel comfortable around people because I am shy about my body and don’t want to attend camps or shower with the other boys. The surgery should’ve been done by now so that I can move on with my life. I have lost hope because every time I’m sent home,” he said. Sanele is also worried about his scheduled surgery next January since he’ll be starting his matric year. He’s concerned he’ll be turned away once more.

A return to normal
“I am really hoping that it happens so that I can be comfortable again and wear my school uniform. I’m tired of people talking about me behind my back. I am also worried that it might affect my studies next year,” explained Sanele. His father also remains hopeful. “I hope they come through and proceed with the operation. It has been a long process and my son being a teenager, is eager to have it done.” – Health-e News

Please note names used in the story are not real as the parents requested that we protect their child.

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