Sebokeng Regional Hospital recently achieved a major milestone with the completion of its first successful brain surgery in 40 years. Health-e News’ Hannah Zhihan Jiang took a closer look at what it took to make this happen and how significant it is for healthcare in the area.
In the past month, Sebokeng Regional Hospital performed its first neurosurgery cases since the inception of the institution in 1983. This was the realisation of a long held dream of 37-year-old Dr Masedi Mohale, who heads the newly established neurosurgery unit at the hospital.
Prior to his neurosurgical training, Mohale worked as a medical officer at Sebokeng Hospital and was deeply affected by the limited resources and lack of specialised care available to patients with neurological conditions. This experience fueled his determination to establish a neurosurgery unit at the hospital, and his efforts have now resulted in life-saving surgeries for patients in the Sedibeng District.
Mohale was motivated to pursue his specialisation after witnessing the tragic death of a young man with a traumatic brain injury who could not access treatment soon enough.
When the patient reached Sebokeng Hospital, he could not talk and was placed on a respiratory ventilator.
“In that kind of situation, you have a condition that can be treated. But unfortunately, because of the circumstances of where you are, you are not going to be treated,” says Mohale. “That really touched me.”
“It was someone so young, someone the same age as my younger brother. I just imagine that could have been my younger brother.”
Seeing a young life diminishing in front of him but not being able to help motivated Mohale to enter postgraduate training in neurosurgery. After completing the five-year training, Mohale returned to Sebokeng Hospital as one of the founding members of the first neurosurgery unit.
Mohale shares his father passed away due to an acute neurosurgical condition when he was receiving neurosurgical training in 2018. By the time his father reached the hospital, it was too late, he says.
The week after his father passed, Mohale returned to his institution and successfully treated a patient of a similar condition.
“It’s rewarding. I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s an honour. It’s an honour to do this.”
Excitement as three brain surgeries completed
The first patient treated was an elderly gentleman who chronically experienced weakness on the right side of his body and was unable to walk and talk. A CT scan showed that he had chronic subdural haematoma, which occurs when a blood vessel in the space between the skull and the brain is damaged. The neurosurgery team conducted a craniotomy operation and removed the blood clot.
The second patient was a young man who was physically assaulted three months ago and had an acute subdural haematoma. He received a craniotomy operation at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and the blood clot was removed. However, the brain was severely swollen due to the injury. Mohale’s team reassessed the young man and completed a cranioplasty to protect the brain from further physical harm.
The third patient had an acute extradural haematoma. The team evacuated the bleeding and the patient was discharged last Thursday.
Pressure off CHBAH as neurosurgery unit opens
Previously, patients requiring brain surgery were transferred to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, located 50 km away from Sebokeng. However, due to overcrowding at CHBAH, patients were being admitted to general surgery units and ICU, with telephonic consultations being conducted daily.
Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba says the burden of neural diseases and high level of trauma has led to the realisation of the unit. “We have put in place a plan to turn the tide and restore the jewel of public health in Gauteng.”
Currently, the neurosurgery unit has two neurosurgeons, including Dr Mohale. Every four months, two resident doctors rotate at the unit. The doctors are supported by dedicated neuro nurses, an ICU and an operating theatre.
They now have the basic equipment to conduct operations, Mohale says, but more tools are needed for more complex surgeries such as the ones that treat brain tumours.
“The morale of the staff is quite high at the moment. Because when we introduce something that is new, usually the people are a bit sceptical and scared, so they didn’t think that it was going to be possible for it to be done in our hospital. As they realise that it’s possible, the confidence grows. So I can tell, we are on the right track.”- Health-e News