SOUTH AFRICA – The Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, is set to become the first hospital in Africa to perform robotic-assisted surgery following the launch of the state-of-the-art Da Vinci X-I surgical robot.

Groote Schuur will be one of eight hospitals in South Africa which will be performing robotic surgeries, seven of which are in the private sector.

At a cost of just under US$2.71 million (R40 million), the multi-armed robot will aid surgeons in doing complex surgeries on the human body in a less invasive and within a shorter period of time.

Robotic Surgery Coordinator at the hospital, Dr Samkele Salukazana led the team at the hospital in demonstrating its capabilities. He says the technology offers a host of benefits for both surgeons and patients.

It’s really an amazing piece of equipment, more especially the hand movement essentially can almost do 360 degree movements in the hands, which you don’t get with conventional laparoscopy and that’s the art in robotic surgery, better vision, magnification, clean clear visual of the anatomy and easier dissection with range of movement,” says Dr Salukazana.

The Western Cape Health Department says it is working on plans to address a backlog in surgical procedures at state hospitals which is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department prioritized managing its response to the pandemic, resulting in the scaling back of some of its services.

Chief of Operations Dr Saadiq Kariem says the surgical services list at all public hospitals will be increased. He says the new state-of-the-art surgical robot launched at Groote Schuur Hospital will also help to increase much-needed services.

“The robot will certainly assist us because it will allow us to be more efficient in terms of services that we provide and also will allow us a wider scope and a wider range of clinical services that we can in fact make sure we provide those services to the people of the province,” says Dr Kariem.

The device can be used across a wide spectrum of minimally-invasive surgical procedures such as gynecology, urology, cardiothoracic, colorectal and general surgery and is expected to reduce blood loss, infection recovery and less scarring after surgery.

Even though this device is the first of its kind in South Africa and the continent at large, there are seven more robots in South Africa, all in the private sector ranging from urology to general surgery, gynecology and thoracic surgery.

Robotic surgery hit SA shores in the private sector eight years ago. Robotic-assisted surgery has become the new standard of care as an option for minimal invasive surgical intervention.

This new technology allows surgeons to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision.

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