Mail & Guardian

'Certain level of risk' for Mandela in hospital

09 Dec 2012 13:08 | Nickolaus Bauer

President Jacob Zuma visited Nelson Mandela -- seen here in a file photograph -- on Sunday, and said to have "found him comfortable". (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma visited Nelson Mandela -- seen here in a file photograph -- on Sunday, and said to have "found him comfortable". (AFP)

The 94-year-old former president was admitted to a One Military hospital in Pretoria for medical tests on Saturday, just short of a year since his last known hospital visit.

The presidency released a statement confirming his hospitalisation and said there was no cause for alarm and that he would receive medical attention from time to time, "consistent with his age".

President Jacob Zuma also visited  Mandela on Sunday and said to have "found him comfortable" and "in good care".

Medical experts however told the Mail & Guardian that Mandela’s age should be taken into account when assessing the significance of him being admitted to any medical facility.

Dr Charles Muzamhindo, a specialist physician and critical care specialist in Johannesburg, said that at his age, Mandela being admitted to hospital carries a
"certain level of risk".

"The risk of an elderly person contracting an opportunistic infection in hospital is of course greater than that of other age groups," Muzamhindo said.

This was echoed by Dr Mark Sonderup, vice-chairperson at the South African Medical Association.

“I’m not sure we should press the panic button every single time a man of his age has the sniffles,” Sonderup told the M&G.

"But unfortunately, we have to accept that simple health matters for a person of that age can turn very serious, very quickly."

Sonderup added that age would always be a factor when an individual was admitted to hospital.

"It’s never a great place to be for anyone as you are at risk of contracting opportunistic infections and elderly people, by their nature, are at greater risk of such," he said.

However, Sonderup said that without specifics of Mandela's condition and reasons for hospitalisation it would be difficult to comment further.

"I wouldn’t want to speculate as to what, how and why Madiba is in hospital, but I think we need to trust he is getting the best care available," he added.

Muzamhindo supported Sonderup's prognosis, saying the doctors in charge of his care obviously thought it best for him to be in hospital than receiving treatment at home.

"You have to look at the exact reasons at why he is being admitted -- and if we don’t know that it’s simple horse trading and guessing," he said.

"We just need to trust in the facts being released by them [the presidency] and believe Mandela is getting the best care."

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