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A Cardiothoracic Surgeon Shortage

In an October article, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Hendrick Mamorare of Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute stressed the need for cardiothoracic surgeons, particularly in developing countries. “Only a few paediatric cases get to be operated upon due to a shortage of surgeons and equipment,” said the surgeon. The numbers speak for themselves: in SA alone, each year sees 10 000 babies born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) of which only about 700 receive the necessary care and surgical intervention to make it to adulthood. 90% of the initial 10 000 babies will die a premature death. A heart-wrenching reality considering that even in cases where “kids present with little or no long term survival… majority of the cases end up [with the child] having a normal quality of life and a normal expectancy following surgery,” confirms cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Erich Schurmann. “In other words [working] on babies with CHD outstrip any other procedure in medicine due to the fact that successful procedures can add seventy or more years of life.

Over recent years, South Africa (SA) as a country has been witness to an explosion of reported cardiac cases. In 2015, the Cardiothoracic Department at the University of Pretoria confirmed that “these diseases currently rate among the most prominent killers in our country.” The steady rise in the number of case incidents sounds an alarm in light of predictions that within the next 20 years, cardiothoracic surgeons, the world over, will have to increase their caseload by at least 120% to meet surgical demands (Science Daily, 2016). That means that a surgeon currently performing 135 cases a year will be expected to take on about 299 cases each year. A reality considered to be near impossible. The Ohio State University argues that “of the surgical specialties analyzed, the increase in future workload is expected to be the greatest for cardiothoracic surgeons”. By 2025, the demand for cardiothoracic surgeons is said to increase to almost 50%. “We feel [the projected increase in caseload per surgeon] is not feasible and a sign of a problem that must be addressed head on so to increase the number of those successful trained and willing to increase their case volume in a time of value-based care,” says an intensely concerned Dr Susan Moffatt-Bruce of the Ohio Univeristy Department of Surgery, Division of Thoracic Surgery. A hot topic in healthcare for several years and a topic we hope will entice and encourage hopeful medical practitioners out there to engage in. “Health is a fundamental right” (Nelson Mandela), and we hope the option of longevity will be kept alive and made available to our future babies born with a heart disease.


© Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute 2017 | Images: Malaika Boon​ Sources:


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