Cardio-thoracic surgeons at Netcare Greenacres Hospital make history
The cardio-thoracic surgeons at Netcare Greenacres Hospital in Port Elizabeth recently reached an Eastern Cape medical milestone, having completed 10 000 open-heart surgeries since the inception of the facility in 1987.
Netcare’s coastal region director, Craig Murphy, congratulated the specialists at the hospital’s cardiac centre, saying the landmark 10 000th procedure was a coronary artery bypass operation for Mr Clive Oosthuizen from Uitenhage, by a team led by cardio-thoracic surgeon, Dr Gerhard Oosthuysen.
“If you consider that just three cardio-thoracic surgeons and their teams performed all of these thousands of open-heart surgeries — and that many of these procedures were little short of life-saving — the substantial impact that these specialists have made on the lives of patients within the Eastern Cape region over the years becomes all too clear,” says Murphy.
According to Murphy, the three local cardio-thoracic surgeons who performed the surgeries over the years were Dr Oosthuysen, Dr Rashoek Sewsunker and Mr Mervyn Williams, who retired from medical practice at the hospital 10 years ago.
Dr Oosthuysen, who commenced practising at the facility 25 years ago, even before it was acquired by Netcare in 1997, and who completed the majority of these surgeries, says that he was rather surprised to learn from the hospital that the cardio-thoracic centre at the hospital had completed quite so many procedures.
“We have just worked each day to meet the needs of each patient who has passed through our doors over the years. It is affirming to have assisted such a large number of people, and we remain dedicated to serving our cardiac patients now and into the future,” he added.
According to Dr Oosthuysen, the open-heart surgeries that have been performed at Netcare Greenacres Hospital over the years have included coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG); surgery to repair or replace heart valves, as well as thoracic aortic surgery and paediatric heart surgery.
Mr Clive Oosthuizen, who works in the motor repair industry in Uitenhage, said shortly after his discharge while still recovering from the open-heart CABG surgery, “I am already feeling much better than I have for months and am so grateful to have been given this second chance at life.”
“Unfortunately I had for months ignored chest pains and a lack of energy – warning signs that I had blocked arteries. Eventually I suffered a heart attack and was treated for this at Netcare Cuyler Hospital. My cardiologist, Dr Nico van der Merwe, undertook an angiogram and he and Dr Oosthuysen confirmed that I needed to have a bypass operation as soon as I was strong enough.
“I have to admit that open-heart surgery was a rather daunting prospect but the doctors and staff at Netcare Greenacres Hospital were outstanding explaining the process throughout and I am pleased to have had the benefit of the operation, and am most honoured to have been the facility’s 10 000th procedure. This milestone gave me the comfort of knowing that I was in very safe hands for the operation.”
Dr Oosthuysen adds: “The great majority, approximately 80%, of the surgeries at Netcare Greenacres Hospital have been coronary artery bypass grafting procedures such as we performed on Mr Oosthuizen. This involves grafting an artery or vein to bypass a blocked portion of the coronary artery, to create a new pathway for blood to flow to the heart muscle. CABG can assist in relieving chest pain, or angina, and may lower the risk of heart failure.”
“If I have one message for people, is that we should listen to our bodies and not ignore warning signs that we may have health problems. I have always been fairly fit and never expected to have blocked arteries. Thankfully my wife and colleagues urged me to have the chest pains and exhaustion I was experiencing checked out and I am grateful I did,” advises Mr Oosthuizen.
Interviewed in 2015, Mr Williams, who assisted with the establishment of the cardio-thoracic facility at the hospital in 1987, said that it took patients between three to six months to recover fully from open-heart surgery in those days. Mr Williams, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, noted that “tremendous advances” in technology and techniques had, however, changed this in recent years, to the benefit of patients.
According to Andre Bothma, Netcare Greenacres Hospital general manager, the facility’s cardiac centre offers private adult and paediatric patients a comprehensive range of cardiovascular diagnostic and treatment services.
In addition to the cardio-thoracic unit, the hospital’s cardiac centre also includes two cardiac catheterisation laboratories (cath labs) for minimally invasive interventions, a coronary care unit, a heart rhythm unit, and a dedicated intensive care unit (ICU).
“These facilities enable cardiovascular specialists to work closely together in multi-disciplinary teams and use a range of different approaches to treat cardiovascular conditions to the benefit of patients,” notes Bothma.
“We are deeply humbled by what has been achieved over the years by the cardiac centre, and the cardio-thoracic unit in particular. Those who have served the cardio-thoracic unit over the last three decades, including Dr Oosthuysen, Dr Sewsunker and Mr Williams, have performed wonders and deserve our every acknowledgement and thanks,” he concludes.