Passionate surgeon makes a difference at Potchefstroom Hospital

Dr Prince Mwila (medical officer), Khumisho Mmolawa (assistant director quality assurance), Dr Kongolo Kakudji (HOD for surgical department) and Dr Nthabiseng Mosimanyane (medical officer). Photo: Marianke Saayman
Dr Prince Mwila (medical officer), Khumisho Mmolawa (assistant director quality assurance), Dr Kongolo Kakudji (HOD for surgical department) and Dr Nthabiseng Mosimanyane (medical officer). Photo: Marianke Saayman

In the past five years the surgical department at the Potchefstroom Hospital underwent many changes, however, these changes were all for the better, and couldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the department’s head, Dr Kongolo Kakudji and his hard-working team.

Dr Kakudji has been a registered surgeon since December 1990. He mostly worked as a consultant in a teaching hospital. Shortly thereafter he started his career as head of surgery in Limpopo, and from then he mostly resided in this position.

‘I’ve spent my life being a surgeon and head of the department of surgery,’ he said. He surely has a passion for surgery and saving lives. ‘Surgery is the department that cuts, but not everyone who cuts is a surgeon,’ he said. It took him years to develop his passion into skill and perfection, and to this day he had already trained many a young surgeon.

Dr Kakudji joined Potchefstroom Hospital about five years ago as the Head of the Surgical Department. When he arrived, there barely was a department, and he decided then and there, to make some changes.

‘I had to build up the department because when I started working, there were very few people in surgery,’ he said. When he arrived, he was the only surgeon at the hospital. ‘I started by building the department – there was no department. Not in the sense that I knew a surgical department, so I started from scratch,’ he said.

He had one medical officer who was used to working in surgery, but besides from her, there was only a community service doctor who wasn’t working full time and one or two interns.

‘Before I came to this hospital, there was a new problem in surgery every day, but when I came, I changed the set-up and from that day we didn’t have another problem in surgery. I managed to use the staff available and restarted by controlling our patients. That was my first step.’ Later on, he started to recruit junior people who didn’t know anything about surgery and trained them himself.

Another big change he made in the hospital, was putting pressure on the hospital to buy a new gastroscopy. ‘The previous one was so old, that I’ve seen it in the museum of medicine,’ he said jokingly. ‘But because I didn’t want to discourage people, I had to show them that I could use it. I used it for about two years but it was very old equipment.’ So he showed the management the type of equipment he needed and managed to secure a very good gastroscopy from Sweden, to help him teach young surgeons.

Because of his background, he couldn’t see a surgical department without reference books, so he initiated a small library for the department. ‘I knew the hospital had books, but when I got there, I couldn’t find a single one,’ he said. ‘So three years ago I started a library in my office, which is controlled by my secretary,’ he said.

To top it all up he also started a cancer clinic at the hospital to help cancer patients that had to undergo surgery. ‘I have a very long history with breast cancer patients. To improve the department I created a breast clinic with the aim to gather all the specialists that work with these patients when we see a person with breast cancer and where all of the specialists can give their opinions. These include surgeons, radiologists and social workers,’ he said.

He has an immense passion for surgery and his goal is to save lives and treat his patients as best he can to ensure they have long and healthy lives.

Marianke Saayman

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