For many people, the concept of surgery can be both foreign and daunting. There’s also a general perception that surgeries cost more than what the average South African can afford. However, at a hospital like the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH), a small donation can have a major impact on a child’s life.
Dr Andrew Grieve, a paediatric surgeon at NMCH, speaks about this:
What makes treating children different to treating adults?
Apart from their physical size, their tissues being different, and being susceptible to different kinds of diseases, one of the big things that comes into play when treating children is that you need to take the whole family into consideration.
Having said that, one of the great things about treating kids is the big difference we can make in their lives. Operating on a young baby when they are born changes their whole life. Literally, forever. It’s a big responsibility but it is also a big privilege to have the opportunity to make an impact on somebody’s life.
How complicated are the surgeries you do?
Often the problems are relatively easy to fix but if they don’t get fixed timeously, they can have catastrophic consequences. An inguinal hernia, for example, is a very quick thing to fix and it’s a relatively simple, safe operation. But if it’s not fixed in time and there are complications, a child could pass away due to intestinal damage or infections. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen this in part of our practice over the years. So although these operations are simple, in many ways they really can be lifesaving.
How much do they generally cost to perform?
We can have a big impact with a relatively low financial burden. A simple ‘day case’ operation can end up costing roundabout R1 000 – keeping in mind that that’s R1 000 extra on top of all of the other operating costs that NMCH pays to keep the hospital running. That R1 000 essentially boils down to consumables, including the admission process, the consumables used in the actual operating theatre itself (on anaesthetic drains, the equipment, the stitches etc.) and then also any take-home medication that the patient needs afterwards.
So we actually manage to accomplish quite a significant amount with a relatively small impact on costs. In a nutshell, that R1 000 can make a massive impact on those kids and their families.