Media releases

Winter is chest infection season

How to reduce your risk and deal with bronchitis

Tuesday, July 25 2017

During the winter months, many South Africans experience colds, flu or respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis. Most of us will have had bronchitis at some stage of our lives, or at least know of people who have had it, but what exactly is this medical condition and can it pose a serious threat to our health?

Dr Steve Ponde, a paediatric pulmonologist who practises at Netcare Waterfall City Hospital in Midrand, says that acute bronchitis, which is also sometimes known as a ‘chest cold’, is a relatively common medical condition, particularly over the winter months.

“Bronchitis is best described as the inflammation of the large and medium-sized airways, or bronchi as we call them, and is usually characterised by a cough,” explains Dr Ponde.

“The condition usually resolves after a few days, or at most three weeks, and is usually not serious. That said, people should seek treatment for any cough that is persistent or severe and which lasts for longer than three days.

“A persistent cough could be a sign of a more serious chronic problem of the airways, and there is a risk that unmanaged bronchitis could develop into bronchopneumonia, which can be life threatening particularly in young children under two years of age, the elderly and people with other illnesses that may weaken their immune system.

“Approximately 1 in 20 cases of bronchitis lead to pneumonia, so this condition can pose a very serious risk to one’s health and must be managed appropriately with the assistance of your doctor.”

According to Dr Ponde, bronchitis is itself often associated with untreated infections such as a head cold and sinusitis. These infections may be highly contagious and are particularly prevalent during the winter months.

Other symptoms of bronchitis may include chest tightness, coughing up phlegm or sputum, shortness of breath, fever, and sometimes chest pain. Many of these bronchial infections are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotic treatment.
Acute or chronic bronchitis?
He points out that there is a second type of bronchitis aside from the acute form, and this is chronic bronchitis, which is a condition that usually only affects smokers.

“Today chronic bronchitis is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], which is a blanket term used to describe progressive lung diseases such as this particular form of bronchitis and emphysema.

“In the case of chronic bronchitis, patients cough and bring up phlegm almost every day for at least two or more consecutive years. They must give up smoking if they hope to improve.”

“All forms of COPD are potentially serious medical conditions, and the World Health Organization predicts that it will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030,” warns Dr Ponde.

“A child with a recurring cough may have asthma or may have inhaled a foreign body and should be taken to the doctor.  

“Coughing up blood [haemoptysis] should never be ignored,” he advises. “Violent coughing may result in the rupturing of small blood vessels resulting in bleeding, and may be an indication of an underlying disease such as tuberculosis.”

Caring for the patient
As bronchitis is generally caused by viruses, it is not usually treated with antibiotics, as these are only effective against bacterial infections. However, antibiotics may be used in the very young, elderly or those with other chronic conditions to assist in reducing the risk of secondary pneumonia infections.

Cough mixtures and bronchodilators, together with plenty of bed rest, are most commonly used to treat bronchitis.

“A child who has developed bronchitis should stay indoors, consume large amounts of liquids and be provided with small, frequent meals. Steam inhalations or a humidifier may be helpful in relieving the cough in children over the age of two.”

Preventing bronchitis
Dr Ponde says that South Africans can reduce their risk of developing bronchitis by avoiding exposure to others who have respiratory or other infections. Should you develop a cold, treat it with care and make sure you get sufficient bed rest.

He recommends the following to help keep infections such as bronchitis and possible secondary infections at bay:

  • Practise good hygiene by washing your hands and your children’s hands often to avoid the spreading of germs.
  • Parents who have children with cancer or HIV should discuss additional protective measures to prevent the development of complications such as pneumonia with their doctor.
  • Make sure your home is smoke-free. Passive smoking makes children and adults more susceptible to upper respiratory infections.
  • Avoid smoking as it damages the lungs and damaged lungs are more susceptible to bronchitis.
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeve or tissue to prevent germs spreading through the air. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Exercise, follow a well-balanced and healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of fluids. A healthy body is better able to resist infection.
  • Exclusively breastfeed your baby as it helps to build a stronger immune system and provides additional protection.

“Ensure that your children’s immunisations are up to date. It is important to have babies and young children immunised against as many common infectious diseases as possible. Recommendations for immunisations change from time to time and should be discussed with your doctor or clinic. Vaccines are available to help protect against pneumococcal pneumonia and flu.”

“Provided that illnesses such as bronchitis are treated and managed correctly and with due care, complications such as pneumonia could be prevented and the patient is likely to make a full recovery in good time,” concludes Dr Ponde.



Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Alison Sharp
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,,, or   


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Netcare Cuyler Hospital to boast new 24-hour emergency department

Local residents to benefit from world-class emergency care

Monday, July 24 2017

Netcare Cuyler Hospital has announced that residents of Uitenhage and Despatch will as from 1 August 2017 have access to a 24-hour emergency department seven days a week.

The newly refurbished, fully upgraded emergency department will be operated by a highly experienced, independent emergency management company with a solid track record.

According to the general manager of Netcare Cuyler Hospital, Victor Mutle, the new emergency department will ensure every emergency is treated in the shortest possible time, in line with international standards of care.

As a largely industrial area, Uitenhage and surrounds are home to a number of manufacturing plants, where workers are, on occasion, injured in the course of duty. The emergency department will provide both businesses and the community with added peace of mind that the best possible care will always be close at hand.

“In addition to 24-hour doctors and nurses on site, the emergency department comes with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, and new consulting rooms have been built to ensure a comfortable, world-class hospital experience,” he adds.

Prompted by the growing need for quality emergency care within the local community, Mutle says the new emergency department is something that has been in the pipeline for quite some time.

“Netcare Cuyler Hospital is renowned for providing outstanding patient care and has achieved national recognition in this regard. The addition of the new emergency department is something that the previous general manager had been planning for many years, in consultation with the local community and businesses. As such, it is a great honour for me to see this potentially life-saving development come to fruition on my watch.”

The new management company, ER Consulting Inc., benefits from the expertise of four emergency physicians (the highest emergency medicine qualification in South Africa) to guide their clinical governance policies and charges the lowest medical aid approved rate ensuring that quality is made affordable to medical aid patients.

“We are very excited about the many benefits the new emergency department will bring to the people of Uitenhage and Despatch. Our first priority has always been to ensure that our service offering is tailored to meet the specific needs of the community we serve, and the new emergency department means we are now able to do just that,” concludes Mutle.



Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Cuyler Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Pieter Rossouw and Alison Sharp
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,,,        or


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African cardiothoracic surgeons benefit from unique surgical masterclass hosted by industry greats

Major bid to reduce cardiac-related paediatric mortality rate on the continent

Friday, July 21 2017

Last week over 100 delegates from 20 countries – some from as far afield as Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya – were hosted at Netcare’s head office for a three-day training symposium, hosted by internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Robin Kinsley.

Entitled “Masterclass in paediatric cardiac surgery - How I teach it”, the training symposium was aimed at demonstrating basic paediatric cardiac surgery techniques to doctors and other healthcare delegates from across the African continent.

Pic: The first day of the symposium saw Professor Kinsley (pictured left) together with Professor Richard G. Ohye (right), a cardiovascular surgeon from the University of Michigan in the US, performing paediatric heart surgery at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, with video footage of the procedure streamed live to the delegates at the symposium venue.

With as many as 280 000 African neonates born annually with congenitally malformed hearts and with no access to treatment, Professor Kinsley says it is his fervent hope that the symposium will see paediatric cardiac surgery in many African countries receive a real boost and that more children with heart disease will receive much needed treatment.

“We have organised this symposium for Africa as we have a particular problem on the African continent in that there is very limited surgery available for the treatment of congenital and paediatric heart disease.”

Dr Atilio Morais, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon leading the team at Maputo Central Hospital, a large government hospital in Mozambique, echoes Professor Kinsley’s sentiments when it comes to lack of access to heart surgery in Africa.

“When it comes to events of this nature, it is important that the organisers include delegates from countries in Africa, as most are extremely poor and conducting heart surgeries within these countries is a big challenge due to a lack of resources, resulting in children dying unnecessarily.

“The experts in South Africa have a big responsibility to assist in saving the lives of people elsewhere on the African continent. In addition to resources, we desperately need the knowledge that we can gain at symposiums that are run by our South African colleagues who have vast expertise to share in this field.”

After working with Professor Kinsley from 2009 to 2011 after Professor Kinsley extended an offer of fellowship to him and some of his colleagues, Dr Frank Edwin, a cardiothoracic surgeon from the Ghana National Cardiothoracic Centre, has set up a paediatric cardiac programme in his own country after his return home.

“I have benefitted greatly from the time I worked with Professor Kinsley and this training symposium is particularly important to me as I am presenting a technique which I developed while working with him. However, it is also a great opportunity for me and my team to interact with the other surgeons who are attending, so that we can all learn and share our ideas.”

Last week over 100 delegates from around 20 countries – some from as far afield as Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya – were hosted at Netcare's head office auditorium for a three-day training symposium, hosted by internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Robin Kinsley.

The first day of the symposium saw Professor Kinsley together with Professor Richard G. Ohye, a cardiovascular surgeon from the University of Michigan in the US, performing paediatric heart surgery at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, with video footage of the procedure streamed live to delegates at the symposium venue.
Day two and three of the symposium saw a number of leading local and international cardiothoracic surgeons covering a range of paediatric cardiac surgery techniques, followed by discussion sessions during which delegates had the opportunity to participate.

For Professor Ohye, attending the symposium was a particular honour, and he thanked the delegates who travelled, many from afar, and encouraged them to participate in the symposium discussions.

“I am here to discuss different ways to do things and I expect to learn just as much as I expect to teach at this conference. It is always best if it is a discussion with an interchange between colleagues. I have performed surgeries in Asia, in Central America and now here as well, and what is really amazing is that things are not all that different from place to place.

“There are techniques that are sometimes slightly different based on local resources, but the basics, the children themselves and the heart problems, are the same wherever you are born, as is the way we try to fix them. Symposiums like these therefore really become a great opportunity to share knowledge from all directions.”

Because open paediatric heart surgery is not performed in many countries in Africa and, if it is, it is normally on a minor scale, Professor Kinsley is hopeful that after the training symposium, paediatric cardiac surgery will become more commonplace, and that most cardiac surgery units will be performing more complicated surgeries on increasingly younger patients.

Dr Michael Sanusi, an adult and paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon from Tristate Heart and Vascular Institute at the Babock University, in Illishan Ogu State, Nigeria, is involved in the development of cardiac surgery in Nigeria.

“I’m really happy to have the opportunity to attend this symposium which not only serves as a good refresher conference but sees a lot of discussions about high-level complicated paediatric cases and I am learning a lot,” he adds.  

For Professor Kinsley, considering that these days, virtually every heart condition in children can be corrected or at least very well palliated, the lack of access to paediatric cardiac surgery in Africa is even more tragic.

“We have so many patients around the world who have been operated on as neonates and who are now fully grown, who have their own children and their own families and there is every expectation that they will enjoy a normal lifespan. I personally have performed 15 000 open heart surgeries, and as such, have thousands of former patients out there who can attest to the lifeline they have been given through corrective heart surgery.

“Going forward, in addition to the Foundation I will be establishing to spread awareness and raise funds for the plight currently facing so many children on the continent with heart conditions, it is my hope and dream that following this symposium, paediatric cardiac surgery in these African countries will receive a real boost, and that many of these children will be afforded the opportunity to have their cardiac related conditions corrected,” concludes Professor Kinsley.



Issued by:    MNA on behalf of Netcare Sunninghill Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Pieter Rossouw or Alison Sharp
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,,, or


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Can you really die from a broken heart

Are increasing instances of broken heart syndrome, fact or fiction?

Thursday, July 13 2017

Also known as stress cardiomyopathy, the condition commonly referred to as ‘broken heart syndrome’ has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent times, leaving many questioning whether it is, in fact, a real medical condition.

According to Dr Pieter van Wyk, a cardiologist practicing at Netcare Sunninghill and Netcare Sunward Park hospitals, “While we are all familiar with the notion of ‘dying of a broken heart’, which is commonly referred to in many literary works, broken heart syndrome is in actual fact a condition that has been well researched and documented in the medical world.
“However, while in fictitious terms it most often refers to heartbreak resulting from romantic betrayal, rejection or loss – from a medical perspective stress cardiomyopathy is most often triggered by intense physical or emotional stress resulting from various stressors.

“This typically includes intense emotional and/or physical trauma such as being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, a motor vehicle accident or the news of a family member passing away.”

Research indicates that the condition is most prevalent in older people between the ages of 62 and 75, with more than 80% of patients being women.1,2

Dr Van Wyk first became interested in the subject while working in Christchurch, New Zealand, with cardiologist Dr Christina Chan, who has a special interest in stress cardiomyopathy. She later went on to complete a Master of Medical Science degree on the effects of stress on the heart.   

Pic: Dr Pieter van Wyk, a cardiologist practicing at Netcare Sunninghill and Netcare Sunward Park hospitals

Dr Van Wyk recalls how 21 women presented with stress cardiomyopathy at the public hospital in Christchurch where he was working, following an earthquake in February 2011, in which 185 people died.

“While the heart condition they suffered did not result in any fatalities and was transient in nature in most of the cases, the condition re-occurred at least three times in one of the patients,” he notes.
So what exactly is stress cardiomyopathy? Dr Van Wyk explains that in instances of stress cardiomyopathy part of the heart essentially stops working properly and as a result does not pump optimally. “In most cases the condition involves a balloon-like effect occurring in the apex, the lower end of the heart, and for this reason, it is often also referred to as apical ballooning syndrome.
“People in whom the condition manifests itself generally experience sudden, intense chest pain and shortness of breath, which are similar symptoms to those experienced during a heart attack. However, stress cardiomyopathy is in fact a completely different condition,” he notes.
Dr Van Wyk goes on to emphasise that people suffering from stress cardiomyopathy do not usually have coronary heart disease, which causes a heart attack.

“A heart attack occurs in people with coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, when one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart gets blocked and this, in turn, causes damage to part of the heart muscle.

Dr Van Wyk cautions that during the acute phase, stress cardiomyopathy seems to be just as severe as a heart attack and can lead to serious heart problems. “It may, for example, lead to further heart rhythm problems that cause the heart to beat much faster or slower than normal. It can also result in heart failure, i.e. the heart underperforms in pumping enough blood through the body. The worst case scenario is that the heart failure could result in death. However, if the acute phase is survived then almost every person with stress cardiomyopathy recovers completely within one to four weeks.”

Due to the similarity of the symptoms when it comes to heart attacks and stress cardiomyopathy, Dr Van Wyk emphasises the importance of tests to determine the exact cause of the symptoms being experienced.

“With stress cardiomyopathy, the heart releases certain chemicals that will show up in blood tests, similar to that seen in a heart attack. A chest x-ray is often used to show if there is fluid in the lungs and also provides an indication of the general shape of the heart and large blood vessels in the chest.  

“Electrocardiograms, or ECGs, which measure the electrical activity in the heart; echocardiograms, using sound waves to create a picture of the heart as it beats; and coronary angiograms, which reveal narrowed or blocked arteries, are also commonly used to enable an accurate diagnosis.”

Most people are treated with medication which, Dr Van Wyk says, are prescribed based on the individual’s symptoms and any specific complications caused by the stress cardiomyopathy.
“Generally speaking, it is only necessary to take medication temporarily until the condition improves, however some people do need to take it for the rest of their lives. And while patients recover from stress cardiomyopathy, it may reoccur in approximately two percent of individuals.

“While significant inroads have been made into determining its exact cause over the years, there are a multitude of differing factors at play when it comes to both the diagnosis and treatment of stress cardiomyopathy. However, broken heart syndrome remains a real and sometimes serious medical condition that requires medical intervention,” concludes Dr Van Wyk.

1.) Akashi YJ, Goldstein DS, Barbaro G, et al. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy: A new form of acute, reversible heart failure. Circulation. 2008;118:2754–2762. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2.) Eitel I, von Knobelsdorff-Brenkenhoff F, Bernhardt P, et al. Clinical characteristics and cardiovascular magnetic resonance findings in stress (takotsubo) cardiomyopathy. JAMA. 2011;306:277–286. [PubMed]


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Sunninghill Hospital and Netcare Sunward Park Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Pieter Rossouw or
Alison Sharp
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,,, or


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Rusty the Rhino brings fun healthy foods to Netcare Linksfield Hospital paediatric patients

Bravery certificates, colouring in and playful crockery aim to cheer young patients

Thursday, July 13 2017

An innovative paediatric catering programme has been introduced at Netcare Linksfield Hospital. The ‘Rusty the Rhino’ programme, developed by the Compass Group and Medirest, Netcare’s catering service supplier, will be introduced in all Netcare hospitals with paediatric wards countrywide.

“The programme heralds a new approach to paediatric catering in that the enticing menus not only offer nutritious meals designed to appeal to junior palates while the friendly rhinoceros character is expected to make the hospital experience more pleasant for children,” says Louis van der Hoven, general manager of Netcare Linksfield Hospital.

“When children are admitted to hospital they invariably feel anxious about being away from home. At Netcare hospitals we strive to make our paediatric wards a welcoming environment for our young patients. In our experience, children who are unwell and are in the unfamiliar surroundings of a healthcare facility often require a little extra coaxing to encourage them to eat, as maintaining good nutrition is a very important part of their recovery process,” explains Van der Hoven.

Celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, who is an ambassador for Medirest, was involved in the launch of this exciting new children’s programme at Netcare hospitals. “I have always been passionate about good food, as it is such an integral part of our daily lives and can enhance almost any experience. Being a father myself, I know that children are often very particular about which foods they are prepared to try,” he notes.

“Rusty the Rhino brings a new element of fun to meal times for children in hospital. Presentation of food is extremely important, and the meals will be served on trays and crockery decorated with Rusty the Rhino’s smiling face. The age-specific menus are designed to be healthy yet enticing for children and include ‘kiddie favourites’ with a wholesome yet tasty twist,” Riffel explains.

“The rhinoceros was chosen for the programme because children in South Africa know and identify with a rhinoceros,” says Dolf Smook, general manager of Medirest.  “At the same time the rhinoceros character also aims to foster an interest in this endangered species and promote conservation consciousness in the young patients.”

Smook says that to add to the excitement of mealtimes, meals will be served by staff members wearing Rusty the Rhino branded aprons and caps. As part of the programme, young patients will receive special Star Award stickers as reward for taking their medicine and eating their meals. Rusty the Rhino colouring in materials and other fun activities are part of the programme to keep children entertained while in hospital. On their discharge, each child will also receive a ‘bravery award’ certificate.  

 “We are extremely pleased to welcome Rusty the Rhino with his big smile in our hospital. We look forward to seeing the smiles of our young patients as they enjoy the special children’s menus and fun activities during their stay at Netcare hospitals,” Van der Hoven concluded.



Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Hospital Division
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, or Meggan Saville
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:, or



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The dangers of taking selfies while driving

Drivers are putting lives at risk taking photos or videos of themselves while driving

Monday, July 10 2017

As social media updates continue to draw in and keep people of all ages glued to their mobile devices, it is the growing trend of taking so-called selfies while driving that poses a very real risk to motorists and other road users.

“The popular #drivingtowork and #drivinghome hashtags that many use to post pictures of themselves on social media whilst driving may seem harmless enough, however just taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds can potentially end in tragedy. The reality is that the busier the road is, the more unpredictable the circumstances become, making snapping a photo or video in peak times particularly dangerous.

“Even though most of us have heeded the warning of not texting whilst driving and opted to invest in hands-free devices, the same is not true of the current selfie-while-driving trend that has become very popular.

“People engaging in this type of social media activity need to realise that they are not just endangering their own lives but those of other motorists and road users, including pedestrians,” warns Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment.

And while the number of accidents resulting from selfie-related behaviour are often difficult to determine, largely due to people not owning up to driving negligently, deaths via selfie continue to increase every year. According to MIT Technology Review, the results of data scientists tracking the rise of selfie deaths across the globe indicate that 73 people died while taking selfies in the first eight months of 2016 alone.

“Recent figures indicate that approximately 1 120 more people died on South African roads in 2016 than in 2015, making it the highest annual road death toll since 2007. And if you just look around at how many people are on their phones, particularly when stuck in slow moving traffic, often taking photos of themselves or of other cars or incidents on the road, it’s easy to understand how so many car accidents happen.

“Driving is one of those tasks that demands your full attention. Countless deaths every year are attributed to distracted driving, evidence that taking your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road for just a few seconds is more dangerous than many people realise,” she emphasises.

“Ultimately we want to make drivers aware that talking, texting, checking social media and selfie posts while driving are adding to the already high road accident statistics on South African roads. This begs the question as to whether posting a picture is actually worth risking human lives,” concludes Toubkin.

So what can be done to discourage snapping selfies while behind the wheel? Here are some ways to minimise selfie-related road accidents.

  1. Educate drivers, particularly the younger generation who tend to use social media platforms most, as to the dangers of being distracted and particularly of taking selfies while driving.
  2. Investigate possible distracted driver apps that will assist you in preventing the urge to check and use your phone while driving.
  3. Be vigilant on the road. Take note of, and try and steer clear of, drivers that are on their phones.
  4. Be vocal and warn contacts and friends of the dangers if you should notice a selfie post of them whilst driving.
  5. Don’t post positive or encouraging feedback when you receive selfie pictures from friends. Many thrill seekers thrive on the attention they receive, and will go on to repeat their dangerous selfie stunts, often at a high safety cost to themselves and other road users.


Issued by:           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact:               Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Pieter Rossouw or Alison Sharp
Telephone:        (011) 469 3016
Email:         ,,, or

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Renowned SA children’s heart surgeon to host major surgical masterclass

Major bid to reduce cardiac-related mortality rate of Africa’s children

Friday, July 7 2017

Following an illustrious career approaching 50 years during which he performed more than 15 000 open heart surgeries, internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Robin Kinsley, will be hosting his last major training symposium – something he considers as a life-saving gift to the children of Africa and the medical fraternity he has so tirelessly served over the years.

Pic: "Internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Robin Kinsley."

The three-day training symposium, entitled “Masterclass in paediatric cardiac surgery - How I teach it”, is aimed at demonstrating basic paediatric cardiac surgery techniques to doctors and other healthcare delegates from across the African continent, and will be taking place at the Netcare head office auditorium from 12 to 14 July 2017.

According to Professor Kinsley, basic paediatric cardiac surgical knowledge is lacking in many African countries, leaving as many as 280 000 neonates born annually with congenitally malformed hearts without access to treatment.

“This is an issue that is close to my heart and something I have been campaigning to raise awareness of for many years. With this symposium I hope to make a meaningful, yet practical contribution to assist in reducing the cardiac-related mortality rate among paediatric patients in Africa.”  

“The advances made in paediatric cardiac surgery now make it possible for survival into adulthood for the majority of the children born with congenitally malformed hearts. The fact that there is still such a high heart-related death rate when it comes to children living in Africa is unthinkable and something I often liken to “continental genocide,” he comments.

With over 100 delegates expected to attend from as far afield as Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, among others, the first day of the symposium will see Professor Kinsley together with Professor Richard Ohye, a cardiovascular surgeon from The University of Michigan, performing paediatric heart surgery at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital. Video footage of the procedure will be streamed live to the symposium venue.

“Day two and three of the symposium will see a number of leading local and international cardiothoracic surgeons cover various cardiac surgery techniques, followed by discussion sessions in which delegates have the opportunity to participate,” he adds.

When it comes to addressing the shortage of cardiac treatment available in Africa, Professor Kinsley emphasises that a thorough and holistic understanding of the problem is required.

“The magnitude of children and neonates needing optimal cardiac surgical management across the continent is massive, and the benefits of treating these children are potentially profound. Here adequate finance is pivotal and active interest and involvement from numerous key players, including government and non-governmental and philanthropic organisations are absolutely critical.”

“When it comes to ensuring the necessary infrastructure, hospital developers, biomedical engineers, managers and so on are required, backed by on-going innovation and strong leadership.”

“And of course it is critical to train and develop local personnel, especially medical practitioners and nursing professionals, which are something the symposium aims to assist with. It really comes down to the old Chinese proverb – ‘give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime’,” says Professor Kinsley.
Professor Kinsley currently heads up the multidisciplinary paediatric cardiac team at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg. His dedication and contribution to the medical profession were recently recognised when he received a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons of South Africa (SCSSA).

“Children’s heart disorders are often quite different to cardiac problems experienced by adults and each case is unique. For this reason, our multidisciplinary team assesses each patient holistically and then devises a management strategy to best meet his or her specific needs.
“We also offer an outpatient Heart Failure Clinic at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital to assist in the management of such cases. Our goal is the prevention of sudden cardiac death, through the appropriate management of advanced heart failure in paediatric patients,” concludes Professor Kinsley.



Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,, or

* - Article written by Professor Robin H. Kinsley, MD in World Journal for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery titled: The Third Aldo Castañeda Lecture: The Neglect of Neonatal/Infant Cardiac Disease in Africa—Continental Genocide?



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Three women, the first recipients of long-awaited technology share their stories

Compared to brain surgery, Gamma Knife Icon treatment was “a walk in the park”

Thursday, July 6 2017

Three women suffering from different cranial conditions were among the first to undergo treatment with the highly advanced Gamma Knife Icon, the international gold standard for this specialised branch of radiosurgery, made available in South Africa for the first time at Netcare Milpark Hospital recently. As they eagerly wait for this ‘surgery without a scalpel’ to take effect, they share the journeys that brought them to this point.   

Essential tremor stands between a nurse and the work she loves
“I started suffering from essential tremor two or so years ago. It only affects my hands, which shudder severely when I try to do any task,” says 49-year-old Sr Daleen Meissenheimer, who hails from the Free State.

“I was placed on long term incapacity leave from my work as a nurse at a public sector clinic a year ago as a result of this condition.”

Pic ‘Gamma Knife Icon patient.jpg’: (left to right) Neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist, Dr Dheerendra Prasad of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York; radiation oncologist, Dr Sylvia Rodrigue; patient, Mrs Melanie Thomson; and neurosurgeon Dr Frans Swart. Mrs Thomson, who suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, was one of the first patients to receive Gamma Knife Icon treatment at Netcare Milpark Hospital.

Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder in the world. It is a neurological condition that causes involuntary trembling in a part of the body, most often the hands and arms.

“As you can imagine, I was not able to do my nursing work properly with hands that shook so badly that I could not take a patient’s blood or even hold a pen properly to fill out a patient file or write a report. This has been one of the hardest aspects of this condition for me to bear, as I love nursing and miss it very much. I have a young son and need to be able to work in order to support us.”

When Meissenheimer was first diagnosed with essential tremor she was prescribed medication, which initially helped to control the tremors, but a month later the symptoms returned. While deep brain stimulation is usually used to treat severe essential tremor nowadays, Meissenheimer was not a suitable candidate for that procedure.

“My neurosurgeon advised that the Gamma Knife was the best and safest treatment option available to me,” she adds.

The Gamma Knife Icon is the sixth generation of the Leksell Gamma Knife system, and introduces a number of new innovations, such as integrated imaging and software, and an advanced patient motion management system to continuously control dose delivery. The system is used in the treatment of selected brain tumours, head and neck tumours, vascular malformations in the brain, as well as functional disorders, such as essential tremor.


“The Gamma Knife Icon procedure itself was completely painless, no sedation was necessary and I wasn’t even aware that it was taking place. I was able to go home directly afterwards. My doctors anticipate that the Gamma Knife Icon procedure will take between three to six months to show benefit, and I will also need a further procedure in a year’s time on the other side of my brain in order to complete the treatment process,” Meissenheimer explains.

She expressed her gratitude to the Gamma Knife South Africa team who conducted her treatment, adding that she wished this technology had been available years ago as it would also have benefitted her father. “My father suffered from very bad essential tremor, so much so that he needed full time care including having to be fed during the last years of his life.”

Acoustic neuroma patient’s long wait is over
“One morning, I woke up and I couldn’t hear in my right ear anymore. I went to the GP, and then to an ear, nose and throat specialist, and at first they couldn’t diagnose what was wrong. Eventually, I was sent for an MRI, and the scan identified a tumour growing on a nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. I was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma,” says 49-year-old Renet Kotze of Johannesburg, who was the first patient to receive Gamma Knife Icon treatment in South Africa.

Acoustic neuromas, also known as vestibular schwannomas, acoustic schwannomas or neurinomas, occur in about 9.4 people per million globally. Although the tumour is usually benign, it grows in the confines of the ear canal and may eventually press on the brainstem, which controls many essential functions, such as breathing and heart rate.

Mrs Kotze relates how traditional surgery, which failed to eliminate the tumour, impacted her life as Gamma Knife Icon treatment was not yet available at that time.

“In 2008 I had a 17-hour long operation to remove the tumour. When I woke up from the operation I had lost my hearing, I couldn’t talk, walk, drive or eat solid food. I had to have extensive rehabilitation to regain these functions. I experienced temporary relief from the headaches, but the recovery from the operation took two years because there are so many interconnected nerves in the area where they had to operate.

“Unfortunately, the tumour grew back after the operation. I started exploring options with my doctor, and that’s when I first heard of Gamma Knife treatment. At that time, I would have had to travel to the Unites States at my own expense to receive the treatment.

“I have been eagerly waiting for the technology to become available here in South Africa, because the tumour was growing quite slowly, at a rate of approximately 3mm per year. I was so grateful to receive a telephone call several weeks ago to say that now the most advanced version, the Gamma Knife Icon, has arrived.”

Kotze says that she was initially somewhat anxious when she heard that she would not be anaesthetised for the Gamma Knife treatment. “It is very quiet in the Gamma Knife Icon equipment, and I really did not feel anything. The Gamma Knife SA team were brilliant; they played classical music for me during the treatment and they kept me updated on how much longer it would take – the treatment itself lasted only 56 minutes,” she recalls.

“I have been told that this treatment has shown an exceptional success rate internationally in terms of reducing or preventing further growth of acoustic neuroma.  I feel very positive, although we will only be able to assess how successful it has been in a year’s time.

“I did not know what to expect in the Gamma Knife Icon treatment, but now that I have had it, I can tell you that I would rather go through 300 Gamma Knife treatments than have that 17-hour operation again,” Kotze says.

Non-invasive radiosurgery precision offers new hope for trigeminal neuralgia patient
“I have had trigeminal neuralgia for about eight years now. The condition causes headaches and ‘spikes’ of severe pain through the jaw, cheek, and head, although each individual experiences it differently,” explains Melanie Thomson of Johannesburg.

“The pain can come on suddenly, for example when I brush my teeth, or when talking or laughing. My mouth goes numb, and I cannot eat properly. The pain comes and goes, and even at times when I am not in pain, I live in dread of the next attack.”

In April last year, Thomson had a microvascular decompression operation, which she describes as “quite a hectic operation”. “They had to cut my hair and the incision they made on my head was quite big, about as long as my hand. I spent two days in ICU, then two more days in hospital and was out of action for four to six weeks after the operation. I had a few months of relief after the microvascular decompression surgery, but unfortunately the symptoms came back.”

A year later, Thomson’s doctors gave her the news that the latest in non-invasive cranial radiosurgery, the Gamma Knife Icon, would soon be introduced for the first time in Southern Africa at Johannesburg’s Netcare Milpark Hospital, and that she was a candidate for this type of treatment.

“Before commencing the treatment, I had to have an MRI scan and that equipment makes lots of weird noises. I believe they use the MRI to pinpoint the nerve that the Gamma Knife will target,” says Thomson.

“At first it seemed a bit scary because the doctors said that I would be awake during the treatment,” she relates. “First, the Gamma Knife SA team put a frame on my head, and explained that this is to ensure that your head doesn’t move during the treatment. The team put me at ease, and told me what was happening every step of the way. All I had to do was lay still for 25 minutes, it was painless and there was no sound,” she remembers.

“We arrived at Netcare Milpark Hospital at 9am and we left at noon. I felt a little nauseous afterwards, but compared to the operation I had previously, Gamma Knife Icon treatment was a walk in the park. Time will tell whether the treatment has been successful, but my doctors and I are hopeful of a positive outcome,” she concluded.  


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Gamma Knife South Africa at Netcare Milpark Hospital  
Contact    :    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
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Eastern Cape hospital once again receives international Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accreditation

Maternity unit receives a perfect score for breastfeeding procedures and policies

Wednesday, July 5 2017

Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape has, for the third consecutive year, received the highly sought after Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accreditation following the recent, annual reassessment of the hospital. The BFHI is a joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The accreditation programme aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and quality infant care within hospitals across the globe. It also seeks to recognise and encourage medical facilities that have demonstrated excellence within their maternity units. Since its launch in 1991, the BFHI has accredited nearly 20 000 medical facilities worldwide and continues to accredit additional medical facilities which demonstrate an innovative approach and commitment to quality maternity care.

“The strategy for BFHI implementation in South Africa states that reassessments must be conducted every year in order to determine if the accredited hospital and its staff members continue to adhere to the criteria of the initiative,” explains Victor Mutle, general manager of Netcare Cuyler Hospital. “If there are any areas of non-compliance, the accreditation may be revoked, however if BFHI standards are upheld, the hospital retains its accreditation.”

“Becoming a BFHI accredited facility in 2015 was a significant development for Netcare Cuyler Hospital, and retaining the accreditation for three years since then is a marvellous reflection of our staff and management’s passion for quality mother and baby care,” said Mutle. “It is a great honour to be counted among those facilities that continue to meet the criteria and the hospital staff and management were overjoyed upon receiving the news,” he adds.

The gruelling BFHI accreditation process compels medical facilities to examine, challenge and modify policies and procedures where required, in order to improve maternity care. Considerable emphasis is placed on skills development as well as the development and implementation of special auditing processes to measure the quality of maternity care.

As the first hospital in the Eastern Cape to establish a breastmilk bank way back in 2008 – whereby donated breastmilk is distributed to premature babies whose mothers are unable to breastfeed – Netcare Cuyler Hospital’s innovative mindset clearly resonates with the BFHI’s ethos towards breastfeeding and infant care. This is evident in the perfect score that the hospital received during the most recent BFHI assessment of their breastfeeding procedures and policies.

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, thanked and congratulated the staff members and management at the hospital, stating that the BFHI re-accreditation bears testament to their hard work, care and quality service. “We salute you for going the extra mile in living the Netcare values,” he said.

Looking to the future, Mutle says that the BFHI accreditation will continue to have a positive, long-term impact on the quality of care the hospital provides to the local community, as there is commitment to retaining the BFHI accreditation, which means that the hospital has to continue improving and developing its facilities and the staff members’ skills.

“As much as retaining the accreditation is an important accomplishment, it comes with great responsibility to uphold the high standards required to provide maternity and infant care worthy of the BFHI,” says Mutle.

Mutle concludes by saying that Netcare Cuyler Hospital is ready to take on the next year’s challenges and is confident that it will maintain its BFHI accreditation for many years to come. “We have no intention of slowing down now, as all of us here at the hospital are passionate about quality healthcare. Our promise to our patients and their loved ones is that we will always strive to improve our service and care not only to our maternity patients but also to all our other patients.”


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Cuyler Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,, or


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Advanced cardiac pacemaker procedure performed for first time in SA

New treatment option made available to patients with irregular heartbeat

Wednesday, July 5 2017

A new approach to implanting a cardiac pacemaker, the ‘His-bundle’ pacing procedure, has been successfully undertaken for the first time in South Africa at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

The ‘His-bundle’ pacemaker pacing procedure was recently completed by a team led by cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Dr Israel ‘Pro’ Obel, at the hospital’s electrophysiology laboratory. “We are delighted to have completed what is, from what we understand, a first in South Africa,” added Dr Obel, who is widely acknowledged for his pioneering work in cardiac medicine.

“The patient also required an atrioventricular node ablation to assist in normalising the heart rhythm, which was performed in a follow-up procedure. We are pleased that the patient has responded very well to both procedures,” points out Dr Obel.

Dr Obel explains that the ‘His-bundle’ is electrically connecting the upper and lower chambers of the heart. “This new form of pacing uses a typical pacemaker, but with a special screw-in lead to pace the heart via the ‘His-bundle’ — a cluster of cardiac fibres responsible for electrical conduction in the heart. Traditionally, the right ventricle of the heart would be used,” he explains.

“In appropriate patients, ‘His-bundle’ pacing is a better long-term option than a traditional pacemaker since it follows the natural rhythms of the heart beat. In the right patients it tends to place less strain on the heart and offers better results over the long term.”

“The ‘His-bundle’ pacing is a somewhat more intricate procedure than the typical lead placement for a traditional pacemaker. While we have not as yet had the benefit of longer-term clinical trials, excellent outcomes are being achieved internationally and we fully expect this to go on to become a standard procedure both locally and abroad, for those patients who qualify for it.”

“It should be noted that ‘His-bundle’ pacing is not appropriate for all patients who require a pacemaker. Suitability depends on the specific anatomy of the patient’s heart and the condition of the His-bundles,” adds Dr Obel.  

A heart rhythm disorder or cardiac arrhythmia is when the heart beats too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. This is caused by a fault or faults in the electrical circuitry of the heart. Electrophysiology is the study of the electrical properties of the heart’s cells and tissues and aims to diagnose and successfully treat cardiac arrhythmia.

“While many South Africans are unaware of the medical condition, an irregular heart beat or arrhythmia is actually quite common, and in some cases can be extremely serious, causing a sudden, cardiac event such as heart failure.”

A pacemaker is surgically implanted to assist in keeping the heart pumping at a regular pace. It is generally used in cases in which the heart is beating too slowly.

“The traditional form of right ventricular pacing is highly successful and presents a low risk treatment option for most patients with heart rhythm problems who require a pacemaker. In certain patients, however, right ventricular pacing can cause dyssynchrony, which is a difference in the timing of contractions in the different ventricles of the heart,” observes Dr Obel.

“When the ventricles are not in sync it may cause the pumping function of the heart to deteriorate over time. ‘His-bundle’ pacing offers an important new option for these patients.”

Sr Susarah Klopper, who manages the electrophysiology laboratory at Netcare Milpark Hospital, says that in addition to pacemaker implantation, a range of intricate and highly advanced procedures are performed at this facility.

These include cardiac ablation to treat heart rhythm disorders. This procedure is used to destroy blocked or damaged electrical pathways that are causing ‘short circuits’ in the heart, in order to restore its normal rhythm.

Netcare Milpark Hospital general manager, Dr Justin Gavanescu, congratulated Dr Obel and his team for having successfully completed this ground-breaking ‘His-bundle’ pacing procedure.

“Dr Obel trained abroad in order to master this procedure, which he believed would bring important benefits to our patients. We would like to thank him and the team at the electrophysiology laboratory for their commitment in introducing His-bundle pacing to the country.”

“The Netcare Milpark Hospital multidisciplinary cardiovascular centre has for many years been at the forefront in private heart medicine, and this South African medical first serves to once again affirm the stature of its highly respected cardiovascular teams.

“It is thanks to the pioneering work done by clinical experts such as Dr Obel who are practising at the hospital, our investment in sophisticated technologies in the hospital, our highly committed nursing staff and the support of experienced allied healthcare practitioners that we are able to deliver such excellent outcomes for our patients here at Netcare Milpark Hospital,” concludes Dr Gavanescu.


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Sunninghill Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,, or   


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