This has been a very successful project of the past years, but it is still functioning very well. We commenced this project about 1998, when the internet was still in its beginning.
In the days before Telemedicine, things happened like this:
A farmworker would report to a rural hospital with a serious medical condition. If this was beyond the local hospital doctor (usually the local general practitioner) he would refer the patient to the next level of the hospital. At this stage the State paid for all the patients’ analysis. The local hospital would make an appointment with the next level hospital with whom they were assigned to work, which could be 150 Km away. The patient was sent away until the date arrived to go to the secondary hospital, which was normally 2 weeks down the line. The patient had to pay for the trip from the local hospital to the secondary hospital and back by ambulance. This could cost him/her all the monthly wages.
The secondary hospital would examine the patient and if the patient was lucky a date was set immediately for the necessary treatment (which could be 2 weeks from then). In this case the patient would have to go back home and come back later, paying for all the transport back and forth. Treatment was free, but possibly 1 month down the line.
If the patient was unlucky, he/she would be referred to a tertiary hospital (Tygerberg, Groote Schuur or Red Cross Children Hospital) and the same procedure would apply, wasting another 2 weeks minimum and the cost of the transport every time.
Rotary managed to negotiate with the top Professors of Tygerberg to install a system using the internet whereby the x-ray and the high definition photos of the patient’s ailments would be sent to Tygerberg, and within 7 hours of receiving this, the local hospital would have a reply from one of the professors concerned with this ailment.
The positive results of this change were immense.
In many cases the patient was treated at the local hospital by the local doctor who was given precise instructions on what to do. Within a short space of time the patient was home recovering, with no cost to him or her.
In very serious cases, the patient was booked directly into Tygerberg by the professor and only had to pay for one set of transport.
The Rotary Club of Durbanville put in 5 Telemedicine projects into different hospitals, but the most successful was that of Clanwilliam Hospital. We are still in contact with the hospital and Dr Strauss. We gave them a high-resolution scanner to scan the X-rays they took, and (then) very high-resolution digital camera to take photos of the patient affected area
Many years later we installed a second digital X-rays machine which shortened the time needed for the information to be sent to Tygerberg Hospital. At that time this was the second Digital X-ray unit installed at any public hospital in South Africa.
This has really been a project which has assisted those in need by drastically reducing not only their cost, but also the waiting time before receiving treatment.