Palatable operations

Repairing cleft lips and palates of children from disadvantaged communities is one of the specialised services offered by Johannesburg’s Netcare Park Lane Hospital, which has earned international recognition for the facilities it offers to mothers and infants.

Netcare Park Lane Hospital is in Parktown, Johannesburg, and is known as a specialist facility with a holistic approach to womens’s health. A finalist in this year’s Absa Healthcare Initiative Awards, it received an award from the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund as Gauteng’s first private mother and baby-friendly hospital.

The incidence of children born with some variation of cleft lip and palate is high and varies from between one in 600 to one in 1 200 births. The abnormalities can vary from a cleft lip on the upper or lower lip, a bilateral cleft or a complete cleft of the palate. These can all occur individually or together.

About 170 procedures have been performed in a specialised centre at the Netcare Park Lane Hospital since April 2004 on babies as young as three months old. The programme enables children who have lived at a distance from society to attend school and interact with other children, so gaining self-confidence.

A hospital spokesperson says that one of the aims is to source patients in underprivileged communities, so reducing the waiting period at government hospitals for this procedure.

From 1998 to 2001, attempts were made to obtain private funding to help children with clefts to be operated on in private sector hospitals. Dr Jack Shevel, CEO of Netcare, agreed that Netcare would pay 50% of the costs, with the other 50% being paid by sponsors, in this case Vodacom.

Said Shevel: ‘Most of the parents are thrilled because they do not have to wait two years or more for the procedures to be carried out. And they do not have to pay a cent for a procedure that could otherwise have cost them thousands of rands.”

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