South Africa’s private healthcare sector has much it can teach the world

Netcare Unitas Hospital  Visiting Surgeon Programme

Thursday, September 16 2010

This was clearly demonstrated when surgeons from around the globe attended a prestigious international learning event held in Pretoria today.

Netcare Unitas Hospital is hosting the Visiting Surgeon Programme (VSP) for the Taylor Spatial Frame, a five-day event that is being held between 15 and 19 February. The hospital becomes one of a select few centres in the world to have had the privilege of hosting the event and the very first in Africa. According to Ad’lle Johnstone, General Manager of Netcare Unitas Hospital, The VSP has so far only been held at two other centres: Vienna in Austria and Bristol in the United Kingdom. Last year’s event was hosted by the Bristol Royal Infirmary in Bristol.

‘The fact that the VSP is being held in South Africa this year is a great achievement and a milestone for private healthcare in South Africa,’ said Johnstone. ‘Only two other centres in the world have had the honour of hosting the event and I believe that our selection is an indication of outstandingly high standards of care that we are able to deliver in this country. We are very proud that the event is being held here at Netcare Unitas Hospital.’

The VSP is a training event where surgeons from around the world are offered the opportunity of learning more about the various techniques involved in the use of the Taylor Spatial Frame. This year the focus of the event is on the use of this important technology in trauma applications. The event involves workshops, live surgeries, ward rounds and outpatient clinics. According to Johnstone, VSP workshops will now be held in South Africa every quarter on an ongoing basis.

Dr Franz Birkholtz, who is in private practice at the Netcare Unitas Hospital, is hosting the programme. He has vast experience in Circular Fixation devices, especially in the field of trauma.

Dr Birkholtz is an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in limb reconstruction, limb lengthening, deformity correction, non-unions and orthopaedic trauma. He is one of only a few orthopaedic surgeons in South Africa to perform this highly specialised surgery and currently performs around 150 limb reconstruction operations each year. In approximately 80 percent of these cases, Dr Birkholtz uses the Taylor Spatial Frame.

Commenting on the VSP Dr Birkholtz said the event provided a wonderful opportunity for the sharing of knowledge. He said that the Taylor Spatial Frame represents an important technological development for limb reconstruction and deformity correction and is used with considerable success throughout the world. While it is not a new device, the frame and the technology around it are constantly evolving, and it is important for medical practitioners to stay abreast of developments.

‘Collaboration and the sharing of knowledge among local and international healthcare practitioners helps to improve the healthcare provided to all of our communities,’ he continued. ‘The ones to benefit from such a sharing of knowledge are ultimately our patients.’

The Taylor Spatial Frame is an external device that fits around a limb and is used for limb correction, straightening and/or lengthening. It enables surgeons to accurately move bones to their correct anatomic alignment. The bones are then able to grow together correctly and/or at the correct alignment.

The device consists of two rings that are connected by six struts attached to the bone with pins and/or wires. Each strut can be independently shortened or lengthened in order to manipulate the bone in question to the correct alignment.

According to Smith & Nephew, the manufacturer of the Taylor Spatial Frame, a surgeon using the technology will input information about a patient’s bone deformity into an advanced web-based computer application. This information is then interpreted by the software and a day-to-day treatment plan is created.

The software also creates an image of the patient’s deformity on-screen and shows how the bones should be moving each day in order to set them in their correct alignment. Daily adjustments to the struts move the bones to the correct alignment and ensure that this treatment regime is closely followed.

Situated in the Pretoria suburb of Centurion, Netcare Unitas Hospital is the largest private hospital in South Africa as well as on the African continent. The 470-bed facility is the flagship of the Netcare group’s 54 private hospitals across South Africa, and offers world-class healthcare services enabled by the latest technology, a team of highly experienced medical professionals and a commitment to render exceptional services to all stakeholders.



Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Unitas Hospital
Contact : Martina Nicholson or Graeme Swinney
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
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