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EthiQal-OHH partnership achieves 500 life-changing, pro bono surgeries

EthiQal, South Africa’s first homegrown professional medical indemnity insurance provider, has partnered with Operation Healing Hands (OHH) for a third year running, to provide life-changing and life-saving surgeries in the public sector – at no cost to the patients.

Operation Healing Hands is a non-profit organisation (NPO) which was founded by Dr Helené Basson and a group of registered doctors in 2016, to honour a week-long Mandela Day initiative that provided private healthcare to those in need. Patients who couldn’t afford the surgery they needed to resume normal lives and who were placed on impossibly long waiting lists at government hospitals, were given the procedures, pro bono.

The initiative was so successful and well-received by the public and industry, that the initial one-week charity drive expanded into a full-blown NPO, bringing change to the lives of those who are suffering. Other than recruiting surgeons, anaesthetists and paramedics who are willing to offer their clinical services at no cost and hospitals who make their facilities available free of charge, the charity organisation takes care of all the other arrangements and extra expenses that are required to ensure successful surgeries. This is achieved through monetary grants and donations, and corporate sponsorships such as the recurring support received from EthiQal.

500 Surgeries reached in August 2021

Over the years, OHH surgeons have performed a variety of surgeries, including procedures for congenital deformities, joint replacements, tendon releases and reconstructive surgeries following burns.

On Friday, 27 August 2021, the OHH initiative performed its 500th surgery since the charity was founded in 2016. The pro bono surgery was a lip reconstruction procedure, performed on a child, Lesedi Mtungwa. The surgery took place at LIFE Eugene Marais Hospital, the “birthplace of OHH”, as affectionately referred to on the charity’s Facebook page.

Overcoming the pressure of unprecedented times

South Africa’s government medical services and hospitals are unable to meet the demands of all the patients who need treatment, especially those who cannot afford private care. The sector has experienced even greater strain during 2020 and 2021, due to the rampant spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the healthcare sector.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on the medical industry and hospitals and yet, despite restrictions and delays in surgeries, OHH and its band of medical heroes have not ceased to generously provide pro bono treatment at any given opportunity,” says Alex Brownlee, Executive at EthiQal. “Dr Basson reached out to EthiQal for support a few years ago, and we’ve been inspired by the work that they continue to achieve with our contributions every year.”

EthiQal’s vision has always been to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of all South Africans and residents, by supporting the nation’s doctors. This aligns with OHH’s main objective of improving one life at a time, through the liberating surgeries it performs, whether as significant as cerebral palsy treatment or a smaller procedure such as a big toe reconstruction.

“OHH is a much-needed cause in this country and its dedication to changing lives for the better runs parallel to our commitment to preserving and protecting the highest level of quality medical care in South Africa,” says Brownlee.

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