South Africa: Over 70 Percent of Surgeries in SA Will Be Cancelled or Postponed Due to COVID-19 - How Will We Catch Up?

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Health resources are now appropriately focused on Covid-19, but we also need a post-Covid-19 Surgical Recovery Plan to catch up with thousands of cancelled operations, write frontline health workers Bruce Biccard and Lydia Cairncross.

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health emergency. While South Africa has delayed and possibly mitigated the peak of this pandemic, we are now seeing an increasing number of cases in the country and in our hospitals.

The delay gained by the lockdown and other interventions has allowed us to increase our "surge capacity" to handle large numbers of sick Covid-19 patients, through a reorganisation and reprioritisation of medical services. This has been an appropriate and largely unavoidable response to the health crisis, but has resulted in the reallocation of scarce health resources away from other lifesaving health services such as surgery. For many thousands of patients needing surgical care, the impact of Covid-19 now, at the peak of the pandemic and in the aftermath of Covid-19, will be devastating.

The Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa lands on a pre-existing crisis of under-resourced surgical services, evidenced by the unacceptably long waiting times for clinic visits, diagnostic procedures and operations.

We have witnessed...

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