By: Vicky 2011-07-29 16:30
I read a news article about how it has been confirmed by a world renowned neurologist, Dr Pioro who is an expert in motor neuron diseases, that Joost van der Westhuizen has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and I felt the need to say something about, not necessarily about his diagnosis but about medical things in general.
First and foremost I’d like to point out that this Cleveland Clinic that Joost and his neurologist Dr Jody Pearl went to has approximately 200 neurologists. According to Professor Roland Eastman, President of the Neurology Association of South Africa (NASA), there are only about 120 neurologists in the whole of South Africa which means that this clinic has more neurologists than our whole country. Now most of these neurologists here are in private practice and the only neurologists in public hospitals are those that have a connection to a medical school. In Gauteng that means that only three public hospitals have neurologists.
Now I did a quick doctor search on the three biggest private hospital groups in South Africa; Netcare, Medi-Clinic and Life, and between the three of them they have about 90 neurologists. That leaves about 30 neurologists in public practice. Now think about this as well, only approximately 30% of South Africans have medical aid, so now, what about the rest of the population?
If we delve a bit further into some stats, there are approximately 250 000 people in this country who have epilepsy (this is most probably only based in urban areas so this number is most probably quite higher but let’s just work with this) and they should be treated by a neurologist. Now if this is true, that means that 30 neurologists need to treat 175 000 people with epilepsy. Since you can only get a prescription for six months, you would need to see the neurologist twice a year. This means that these neurologists have 350 000 appointments just for people with epilepsy a year.
According to my experience, if the doctor is going to ask questions and what not, an appointment should last around 20 minutes. This means that each of these doctors should spend almost 3 900 hours a year with these patients and if you work on a 60 hour work week and no holidays, they only have 3 120 hours to treat these patients and then let’s not forget the others with different neurological conditions which also need to be squeezed in somewhere. I raise my hands in defeat.
How is it physically possible? Technically, your GP should not be treating you for epilepsy, but that is one of the only explanations as to how this situation is under “control”. It’s that or these people that don’t have medical aid aren’t getting treatment or the neurologists are being reckless and are just writing out prescriptions without doing any form of follow up. And I’m sure that this problem is not just in the neurology speciality, it must be across the board.
I’ve said this numerous times to people that I know and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to say it many, many more times. This is going to sound like I’m a bit heartless but please don’t take this in the wrong way. People are only sparing a thought for Joost because he is a public figure, what about all the other people with this disease? Should they just be ignored because they’re “nobodies”? I can’t find any South African stats, but in the US, 5 000 people are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis every year.
There hasn’t been a link to anything yet with which groups are more likely to get the disease, except that men are more susceptible. So if we had to work with this number and the fact that there are approximately 311 million people in the US, based on that ratio, it means that approximately 800 people in South Africa are diagnosed with this each year. I know it’s not an entirely accurate way to determine the numbers but I’m working with what I’ve got here. So what about the other 799 people? Don’t they just get a second of other people’s thoughts?
I know I am fighting a battle that I will never, ever win. I mean, it’s impossible for people to give a thought to all those who suffer from some sort of disease and your eyes are only opened to these type of things if you personally know someone who suffers from some sort of disease but I feel so strongly that people just need to wake up and just take a minute to sit back and think about all those that are in some sort of suffering at the moment, whether it be something life threatening or just something that you have which you can control but limits your lifestyle in some way or another.
Just thinking about what I’ve typed in the paragraph above makes me want to laugh at myself. Like, what am I trying to achieve with this? It’s ridiculous actually but I just really feel that this needs to be put out there. Even though we can’t pinpoint everyone who has some sort of disease, we can at least spend a second to also think of them like we do when we hear a celebrity has been diagnosed with something.
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