Lenasia South Community Health Centre celebrates investment to offer life changing surgery

Pictured above at the Lenasia South Community Health Centre after their cataract operations are (left) Enid Lebatie and Rachael Ngombane. They are pictured with (right) Nurse Maria Maluleke. Photo by Hannah Paton.

A state-of-the-art equipment was unveiled on Saturday 29 June 2019, and 15 patients’ sight restored at Lenasia South Community Health Centre (LSCHC) through a public-private partnership between Truworths and the Gauteng Department of Health.

Speaking at the LSCHC eye clinic, HR Executive for Truworths, Helen Drabbe, said approximately R5,5 million had been invested in the LSCHC since the leading fashion retailer joined forces with international NGO, Orbis Africa in a partnership, to help tackle the massive backlog in  surgeries. This left thousands of people in the greater Soweto area waiting for up to a year for simple, life changing operations to restore their sight.

In the last year, nearly R2 million was invested in state-of-the-art equipment. This initiative will assist thousands of people in the greater Soweto area who are waiting for this life changing operations to restore their sight.

A Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2015 with the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health saw Truworths and Orbis Africa totally revamp the LSCHC Eye Clinic. Truworths donated R3.6 million in the first year to establish a cataract surgery unit in Lenasia South as well as to fund a major refurbishment to the eye clinic to improve patient care and experience.

The facility was opened by the Gauteng MEC for Health in November 2017

“This weekend is a celebration of the ongoing partnership that enabled the purchase of additional specialised equipment to increase the Truworths Eye Clinic’s capacity to deal with more complex cases as well as to use the Lenasia South facility as an academic facility for eye healthcare,” Drabbe explained.

Gauteng Department of Health’s Eye Health Manager Virginia Mawela echoed Drabbe’s sentiments stating that the contribution by Truworths and Orbis Africa is testament to what can be achieved when private sector joins hands with government.

“We are indeed grateful for the partnership with both Truworths and Orbis Africa. Most of these patients would have had to wait a little longer for cataract operations if it was not for this facility and the equipment which has been made possible by both organisations,” said Mawela.

A Zeiss microscope and one of the most advanced gravity Phaco systems supplied by global leader in eye care, Alcon, were unveiled to continue this work.

According to Alcon spokesperson, Jannes Pretorius, the Centurion Silver Phaco system purchased for the clinic by Truworths is one of the most modern machines used to remove a “lens” cataract.

“The procedure is less invasive compared to previous cataract removal procedures and the recovery of the patient is extremely quick. The machine safely removes the cataract by emulsify the lens,” he said.

“In January this year our top of the range Zeiss Lumera 700 Ophthalmic microscope was installed at Lenasia South. This will allow ophthalmologists to perform cataract surgery with ease and confidence knowing they are using the best optics in the industry. This microscope will also afford the upcoming registrar Ophthalmologists to train on leading industry optics,” said Wendy Dukhanti, Account Manager, Zeiss Johannesburg.

Dr Ismail Dindar, the lead ophthalmologist at LSCHC, explained that a cataract is a medical condition where the eye’s lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil, becomes clouded. This prohibits light from entering the eye.

Although a relatively simple 20-minute procedure can restore sight, cataracts remain one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO), estimates that 20 million people have been blinded by untreated cataracts in lower income countries where they lack access to care.

Overall, in Africa, about 4.8 million people are considered clinically blind and 16.6 million live with severe to moderate visual impairment. Tragically 75 percent of these patients could be treated by facilities like the LSCHC.

These statistics include the more than 4 000 people living in greater Soweto who had waited for up to a year for surgery at either the over-burdened St John’s Eye Hospital or the Chris Hani Baragwaneth Hospital.

Many have since been rerouted to the LSCHC where their sight has been restored.

“We are delighted to celebrate our on-going partnership with Orbis Africa and the LSCHC this weekend. We joined forces to fight blindness in mid-2017. Our common goal was to reduce patient waiting time for surgery in the greater Gauteng area and alleviate some of the backlog at Baragwanath and St John’s Hospital, enabling them to concentrate on paediatric and complex cases,” said Drabbe.

Dr Dindar said that the contribution from the Truworths-Orbis Africa partnership had significantly improved operations at the LSCHC over the past two years. “The availability of consumables and state-of-the- art equipment allowed us to carry our function most effectively and efficiently. The experience of the patient has been changed through the provision of safe facilities.”

Commenting on the new equipment, he noted: “The microscope has absolutely state of the art capabilities. Not only can we view the front of the eye, but also the back. This enables us to do surgery and administer medication to the back of the eye. If I can have one toy, this would be it!”

Turning to the Phaco system, he added: “Phaco multification ensures smoother surgeries with better outcomes. This is the type of machine I will use if doing surgery on my mother!”

Director of Donor Development at Orbis Africa, Christa Robijn, pointed out that Orbis Africa was committed to ongoing work to save sight in South Africa. The approach to drastically reducing visual impairment which prevented breadwinners from supporting their families and young people from being educated needed to be a sustainable one that would serve generations to come.

“Orbis Africa and LSCHC have been blessed by Truworths’ involvement in our work to drive quality eye healthcare and strengthen eye healthcare systems in South Africa. Our mission is to change the way Africa sees through the prevention of avoidable blindness and Truworths has been a valued partner in this journey,” she said.

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