How long is too long for hip replacement?

Christine van Tonder is still recovering after spending months in hospital.

Christine van Tonder has been unable to return to work even though she spent three months (since February this year) in state hospitals, waiting for her hip to be replaced.

Christine spoke to the News after she returned home on 11 May. Her first operation took place on 29 February at Leratong Regional State Hospital. After a series of operations, she was eventually given a full hip replacement on 4 May.

“They first put screws in my hips, but they came loose and had to be removed. I was bed-ridden and in traction for over a month. This is where I discovered the horrors of a state hospital. I had to sleep under torn blankets and eat cold food for more than a month,” she said.

“If you are really sick and don’t have a medical aid, it may be better to die on the side of the road than be treated at a state hospital.”

These may be harsh words, but Christine said that she felt no compassion from the majority of the staff.

“Of course there were some friendly staff and I want to thank them, especially the paramedics,” she said.

Christine has experienced what DA Shadow MEC for Health, Jack Bloom, described as “a general problem, because of staff shortages and insufficient theatre time at the hospitals that do hip replacements”.

Jack said patients can sometimes wait two or three years for a hip replacement.

Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health, agreed that hip replacement surgeries have long waiting lists. “Hip and knee replacement operational procedures are scheduled operations, unlike emergency operations, so patients are put on waiting lists that vary from facility to facility,” he said.

Christine also told us that she’d spoken with another patient who had been waiting for over four months for an operation.

Last year, Eyewitness News (EWN) reported that a patient in need of a hip replacement procedure at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto was told to come back in seven years’ time for treatment.

Doctor Jay Pillai, who is a medical professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (according to the EWN report) said it’s unacceptable for a patient in need of such surgery to be expected to wait seven years. He said even a six-month waiting period would be too long.

Christine’s daughter said that after looking after her mother in a state hospital for the past few months she is now inspired to follow a career in emergency services or health care.

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Chantelle Fourie

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