Public private sector collaboration sees Limpopo learner’s life turned around

Treatment should be “life-changing” for young Polokwane man with disfiguring skin condition

Monday, November 30 2020

A 19-year-old learner from Limpopo, whose life has been severely impacted by a large disfiguring keloid on his face and body, is to be given a new lease on life.

This unexpected turnaround comes as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Netcare Foundation, the Limpopo Department of Health (LDoH), Netcare Pholoso Hospital and a group of private healthcare practitioners. Together they have ensured that the young man will undergo surgery and receive the best follow-up treatment to reverse the condition, which is not only causing him pain and discomfort, but also emotional trauma.

Koena Mokhari, a Grade 10 learner from Moletjie near Polokwane, says he started developing the keloid, which is a type of abnormal skin growth, on his face in 2014. Since then it has grown steadily larger until it obscured half of his face and also developed on his body.

“The surgery to remove the disfiguring and painful keloid is scheduled to take place at Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane on 1 December once Koena has completed his school exams. He will thereafter have follow-up radiation treatments to prevent the keloid from re-occurring. A multi-disciplinary team that includes a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, radiation oncologist, anaesthetists, and dentists will be involved in his medical treatment, while a team of psychologists and social workers will provide Koena with psychosocial support,” says Fabion Bennett, general manager of Netcare Pholoso Hospital.

“This keloid scarring is often painful, and it has begun to seriously affect my schoolwork. And while the people at school and in my village have become used to the scar, if I ever go outside of my village everyone stares at me. It has been very difficult to live with this growth and I am happy that I will now have the opportunity to have it removed. I am hoping that I will be able to return to a normal social life,” he says.

Netcare way


The young man’s mother, Ms Matswene Tryphosa Mokhari, says that the keloid has had a negative impact on Koena’s confidence, and he tends to avoid socialising. “I am so grateful to the Netcare Foundation, Limpopo Department of Health and everyone else who has made his treatment possible,” she adds.

Dr Thendo Netshiongolwe, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who practises at Mankweng Hospital and Netcare Pholoso Hospital, will be undertaking the procedure. He says that it is not known what causes keloids, but they tend to develop and grow in an area of skin that has been scarred by a previous injury.

“Keloids occur relatively commonly within the local Limpopo population and their removal is one of the most common procedures that I perform at Netcare Pholoso Hospital. Koena, however, has an unusually large keloid that covers more than half of his face and much of his body, which is rare,” explains Dr Netshiongolwe, who hails from Limpopo province.

“As the keloid is so large, the surgery to remove it all will be undertaken under general anaesthetic. My surgical team and I are pleased to be working with the Netcare Foundation, Netcare Pholoso Hospital and the Limpopo Department of Health to assist Koena who has had a challenging life over the past number of years due to this condition. The procedure and follow-up treatments should therefore make a really meaningful difference to his life.”
Dr Tumelo Moyaba, an oncologist at Limpopo Oncology, says that the young patient will require three days of follow-up radiation treatment after the surgery to assist in preventing a reoccurrence of the condition.

“Without the follow-up radiation treatment, the keloid would have an 80% chance of re-occurring after the surgery, which is why it is such a necessary part of Koena’s therapy. We will start the treatment at Limpopo Oncology between 24 hours and 48 hours after his surgery at Netcare Pholoso Hospital,” notes Dr Moyaba.

Dentists will also conduct an assessment and undertake any necessary treatment while a team of psychologists and social workers will provide Koena with psychosocial support throughout his treatment process and beyond. The Netcare Foundation is covering the costs associated with Koena’s hospital admission, surgical intervention and radiation oncology care and the LDoH has committed to providing the consumables and medication, follow-up care and management, long term psychosocial support and the pre- and post-op assessments.

Commenting on the case, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, MEC of Health, Limpopo Department of Health said: “As the Limpopo Department of Health, we have made an undertaking to improve the health of the community we serve. When I became aware of the plight of this young man, my team immediately brought together various stakeholders to assist in changing his life.”

“We appreciate the partnership and collaboration between Limpopo Department of Health, the Netcare Foundation, Netcare Pholoso Hospital and the medical team and thank everyone who has volunteered to participate in this initiative, including the staff and management of Netcare Pholoso and Mankweng hospitals. It is gratifying how they always heed our call and sacrifice their time pro bono to help the poorest of the poor. These are South Africans who are worthy of honour and celebration,” added Dr Ramathuba.

“It is also most rewarding to see highly skilled clinicians who deliver world class clinical care showing their commitment to Limpopo province – their home where they grew up. Now they are back here, making a meaningful contribution to changing the lives of the people of our communities.”

Mande Toubkin, who heads the corporate social investment (CSI) department in Netcare and is also a director of the Netcare Foundation, Netcare’s CSI arm, says that the Foundation is delighted to be able to assist Koena by funding his procedures and follow-up therapies.

“Koena has had the unfortunate experience of developing this condition and we trust that the treatments will be completely life-changing for him. Throughout our Netcare operations, doctors and staff members have a deep commitment to assist in improving the quality of life of less privileged individuals and communities through many different outreach initiatives. The Netcare Foundation therefore wholeheartedly supports cases such as Koena’s and we wish him all the very best with his surgery and into the future,” says Toubkin.

Toubkin explains that the Netcare Foundation funds a number of specialised surgical programmes on an ongoing basis. These include craniofacial surgery to correct severe facial anomalies, surgical correction of cleft lip and palate mainly in babies and children, cochlear implants that enable children to hear, and cataract surgery to restore the sight mostly of senior citizens.

Dr Ramathuba highlights that this collaborative initiative between Netcare and the Limpopo Department of health is part of the latter’s short-term strategy to deal with surgical backlogs across all surgical disciplines. “We are showing that something can be done, and we appeal to the community to consult their health facilities. The Limpopo province now has the skills and capacity to deal with conditions of this nature.”

“The availability of the specialised clinical skills to assist this young person is part of the collaboration between the Limpopo Department of Health and Netcare to recruit scarce clinical skills and talent into the Limpopo province and retain these clinicians, because rural health matters,” Dr Ramathuba concludes.

To find out more about the services offered through Netcare hospitals and other of the Group’s facilities, please contact Netcare’s customer service centre either by email at [email protected] or phone 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273). Note that the centre operates Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.

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For more information on this media release, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

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

For Limpopo Department of Health enquiries please contact:
Contact:               Thilivhali Muavha
Telephone:        0660117034