KZN ‘Cataract Camp’ held up by a lack of critical equipment and government red tape

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health


KZN ‘Cataract Camp’ held up by a lack of critical equipment and government red tape


Despite efforts by professional medical staff to reduce the backlog of patients waiting for cataract surgery at Newcastle’s Madadeni Hospital, a lack of critical equipment and government red tape continues to hamper progress.

The finding comes after an oversight inspection conducted by the DA yesterday.

Cataracts is a medical condition that clouds the normally clear lens of the eyes, making it difficult to function normally.

Despite this, the current waiting time in 10 of the province’s facilities where these operations are performed is anywhere between one month to a year.

Two weeks ago, the DA revealed that least 8 201 patients in KZN are waiting for this particular surgery, mostly as a result of dysfunctional ophthalmology equipment. The information was based on a parliamentary reply (view here) by provincial Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

During yesterday’s oversight visit to Madadeni Hospital we found a medical team fully committed to reducing the backlog, with the introduction of a ‘Cataract Camp’, as part of a Nelson Mandela Day initiative. The initiative aims to reduce the facility’s cataract operation backlog from 3 000 to 2 800 this week alone.

This number is still very high and the DA is particularly concerned by reports from professional medical staff that the hospital had to borrow critical equipment from a private company and other facilities in order to conduct the camp.

Staff also reported that a NGO is also supposed to have flown in foreign surgeons to assist – with the intention of conducting 1 000 operations this week alone – but that government red tape has prevented this. The surgeons were scheduled to fly in with their own equipment and certain eye implants that are required in some cases. It may take up to six months to resolve the red-tape issues.

Between 2015 and last week Madadeni Hospital only performed 427 operations overall. With extra equipment, personnel and theatre space allocated for this weeks’ Cataract Camp, they are to perform 200 cataract surgeries. Regrettably, this will not be the case next week or even next month as this means that all other procedures, apart from emergency surgeries, will have to continue being put off.

The DA will submit follow-up parliamentary questions to MEC Dhlomo. He must tell us why this equipment is not working and how backlogs will be dealt with. We will also engage with our colleagues in the national assembly to get an explanation from National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi about what steps he is taking to ensure that bureaucracy does not hold up treatment for the many thousands of people waiting for cataract surgery in KZN.

If the ANC cannot get something as simple as cataract surgery equipment right, it certainly won’t be able to roll out a megaproject like the National Health Insurance (NHI). While the DA acknowledges and affirms the need for universal access to healthcare, we do not believe the proposed NHI provides a workable model to achieve it.

The DA’s Our Health Plan (OHP) is the most credible and workable option that seeks to ensure that no person is denied quality healthcare because they are poor

Click here for photo: Democratic Alliance KZN Health Spokesperson, Dr Imran Keeka, (far right) conducted an oversight inspection of the Madadeni Hospital yesterday where doctors are trying to reduce the facility’s backlog of 3 000 patients waiting for cataract operations.

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