First training centre of excellence in Africa for advanced life support after cardiac surgery established at Cape Town hospital

Highly specialised course builds critical care expertise to optimise outcomes for cardiac patients

Tuesday, July 31 2018

Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital has been recognised by Cardiac Advanced Life Support (CALS-S) UK Ltd, an international training organisation with headquarters in the UK, as a centre of excellence for training healthcare professionals involved in critical care, to enable the healthcare professionals to deliver specialised advanced life support to patients who had undergone cardiac surgery. This is the first centre to be established in Africa to provide the Cardiac Surgical Unit Advanced Life Support (CSU-ALS) course.

“Thousands of cardiac operations are successfully performed in South Africa every year and although most patients recover without incident, a small number do suffer cardiac arrest after surgery. An immediate, coordinated and efficient response by the multidisciplinary critical care team to manage incidents of cardiac arrest can have a significant impact on these patients’ outcomes,” explains minimally invasive and keyhole cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Johan van der Merwe, who heads the Atlantic Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute based at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital.

Pic: Minimally invasive and hybrid cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and Cardiac Advanced Life Support (CALS) SA co-ordinator, Dr Johan van der Merwe, instructs two of the course delegates at the first South African CSU-ALS course hosted at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital. Pictured with Dr Van der Merwe are ICU manager Sr Harriet van Wyk (foreground) and professional nurse in the ICU, Petrus Kritzinger (back), both from Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital.

The internationally endorsed CSU-ALS course equips healthcare professionals to efficiently apply highly specialised clinical protocols that aim to prevent, identify and immediately treat cardiac arrest after surgery to save the patient’s life – all within a very short timeframe. With the assistance of innovative partners around the world, including Netcare, CALS-S aims to make cardiac surgery safer through reducing the incidence of cardiac arrest after surgery and increasing the chances of survival when it does occur.
“Emergency care of a patient who has undergone major heart surgery requires the team to be well-versed in the challenges that are specific to cardiac surgery and to function efficiently as a team to execute highly specialised protocols effectively within the short window of opportunity that is available to save the patient’s life. This demands excellent communication and synchronisation between the various team members including cardiac nurses, specialists and theatre staff, as the appropriate action may even involve surgical intervention rather than just chest compressions,” Dr Van der Merwe says.

Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, in collaboration with Atlantic Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute, has been licenced by CALS-S to train South African healthcare professionals in the CSU-ALS course. The cardiac surgical critical care team at the hospital will host and provide the course twice a year as part of the hospital and Institute’s commitment to advanced patient-centred cardiac care and on-going education.

“Various reports from first world countries suggest improved outcomes in refining and streamlining the techniques and protocols for specialised advanced life support in cardiac surgery patients, which eventually can make the difference between life and death. This is why we consider it important and a privilege to provide access for more healthcare professionals to acquire these skills in our African setting,” Dr Van der Merwe adds.

The first CSU-ALS course in Africa was facilitated by CALS-S at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital towards the end of last year. Nineteen healthcare professionals from Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and various other hospitals successfully completed the training, building expertise in this highly specialised field of medicine.

For the training event, cardiothoracic surgeon and CALS-S coordinator, Dr Joel Dunning from the United Kingdom, teamed up with Dr Van der Merwe and other healthcare professionals of Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital including cardiac anaesthetist, Dr Renier Verbeek, cardiologist, Dr Jan-Peter Smedema, intensive care unit manager, Sr Harriet van Wyk and cardiac critical care specialist, Sr Yvonne Hillermann.

 “A number of international professional bodies have endorsed the CSU-ALS course, including the European Association of Cardio Thoracic Surgery (EACTS), the European Resuscitation Council (ERC), the Association of Physician Assistants in Cardiovascular Surgery and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons practice guidelines in the United States. We incorporated these protocols into our routine surgical care at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and are extremely pleased with the end result of witnessing the development of highly motivated and skilled individuals in our team,” Dr Van der Merwe notes.

“Our team is dedicated to the on-going promotion and improvement of highly advanced surgical techniques and patient care post heart surgery.  We are committed to being at the forefront of state-of-the-art cardiac care that equals or better international standards and to optimise team cohesiveness, communication and efficiency during emergency situations,” adds Dr Van der Merwe.

“The establishment of the training centre of excellence adds to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital’s extensive cardiovascular and thoracic medicine offering, which includes a cardiac catheterisation laboratory and a state-of-the-art endovascular and cardiac hybrid laboratory, dedicated to keyhole and catheter-based cardiac, vascular and lung procedures.”

“It a privilege and a duty to pass on skills that will equip other healthcare professionals to further develop the specialised care required for cardiac surgery patients in South Africa and beyond our borders,” Dr Van der Merwe says.

The general manager of Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, Dirk Truter, says patients undergoing heart surgery at the facility can rest assured that they are in safe hands.

“Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital brings together state-of-the-art cardiac facilities and highly respected specialists in the field, such as Dr Johan van der Merwe. Our hospital’s patients therefore have the comfort of knowing that they are in the hands of world-class experts with leading-edge technology at their disposal, complemented by Netcare’s special brand of care,” Truter concludes.

Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or  [email protected]