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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574

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WATERS, R et al. Drastic reduction of orthopaedic services at an urban tertiary hospital in South Africa during COVID-19: Lessons for the future response to the pandemic. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.3, pp.240-244. ISSN 2078-5135.  http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/samj.2021.v111i3.15263.

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the global surgery landscapeOBJECTIVES: To analyse and describe the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on orthopaedic surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital, a tertiary academic hospital in South AfricaMETHODS: The number of orthopaedic surgical cases, emergency theatre patient waiting times, and numbers of outpatient clinic visits, ward admissions, bed occupancies and total inpatient days for January - April 2019 (pre-COVID-19) were compared with the same time frame in 2020 (COVID-19). The COVID-19 timeframe included initiation of a national 'hard lockdown' from 26 March 2020, in preparation for an increasing volume of COVID-19 casesRESULTS: April 2020, the time of the imposed hard lockdown, was the most affected month, although the number of surgical cases had started to decrease slowly during the 3 preceding months. The total number of surgeries, outpatient visits and ward admissions decreased significantly during April 2020 (55.2%, 69.1% and 60.6%, respectively) compared with April 2019 (p<0.05). Trauma cases were reduced by 40% in April 2020. Overall emergency theatre patient waiting time was 30% lower for April 2020 compared with 2019CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 and the associated lockdown has heavily impacted on both orthopaedic inpatient and outpatient services. Lockdown led to a larger reduction in the orthopaedic trauma burden than in international centres, but the overall reduction in surgeries, outpatient visits and hospital admissions was less. This lesser reduction was probably due to local factors, but also to a conscious decision to avoid total collapse of our surgical services

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