Today the Western Cape (WC) Health Minister, Theuns Botha, announced an innovative eHealth intervention to address the problem of long waiting lists for hip and knee replacements.

The province has a long waiting list for joint replacement surgery, in addition, the backlog has been increasing faster than the WC Department of Health (DoH) can address because more patients have been added weekly to the operating waiting list. An active intervention was required to provide the necessary surgery.

Dr Stephan Fourie, supported by Dr Paul Rowe of the DoH, has developed an eHealth system that enables there to be a single waiting list that is centrally administered. As a result all state orthopaedic surgeons will now use a common set of criteria to assess the urgency of the individual patient’s requirements for joint replacement. This is then collected on the provincial database which is the first of its kind in South Africa. Each hospital’s caseload, ability to offer surgery and monitor their waiting lists and waiting times can now be centrally managed.

This system will link all facilities in the province where elective joint surgery takes place. This surgery is currently offered at eight hospitals in the Western Cape – New Somerset Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital, Tygerberg Hospital, Paarl Hospital, Worcester Hospital, George Hospital, Victoria Hospital and Mitchell’s Plain Hospital. The electronic waiting list will ensure that wherever the patient lives in the WC, they will have an equal and fair chance to undergo the required surgery at the earliest opportunity.

Currently 1800 patients have been placed on the provincial electronic waiting list.

Minister Botha said: “With this project the Department shows it can find innovative solutions to difficult challenges. The centralised waiting list and standardised criteria offers patients the opportunity to be ranked professionally and fairly on the platform. It is a huge improvement for the patient-centred approach.”

“We know that resources are limited in public health care. Therefore it becomes very important to work smarter to stretch the health rand. The intervention is an excellent example where innovation leveraged additional funding, and with the support of partnerships we are now in a position to address the problem of surgery waiting lists in a manner that will tangibly change the lives of people who live in great pain. We are not aware of a similar project in this country, or even internationally,” concluded Botha.

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