Diabetes Centre opened at Groote Schuur Hospital

Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) launched its Diabetes Centre to promote a culture of excellence in diabetes-related primary healthcare in the Western Cape. This is the first public healthcare centre of its kind in Africa.

Diabetes on the increase

The number of people living with diabetes (PLWD) continues to escalate globally, outpacing all predictions. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF):

  • Over the next two decades, the number of PLWD in Africa is projected to increase by 143%, the greatest increase among all continents.
  • In SA, we continue to see a rise in the numbers of PLWD, with current estimates suggesting there are 4,6 million South Africans with diabetes.
  • Roughly 52% of PLWD are undiagnosed. At least 50% of those that are diagnosed don’t have access to adequate care.
  • Approximately 70% of all PLWD remain poorly controlled.

Professor Joel Dave, Head of the Department of Endocrinology at GSH, said,“Overall, diabetes was the second most common cause of mortality in SA, just behind tuberculosis. The vulnerability of PLWD to infectious diseases has been highlighted during the recent COVID-19 pandemic with diabetes being a significant risk factor for hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. Data from the Western Cape shows that 43% of all those with COVID-19 requiring admission to hospital were PLWD and 23% of all deaths from COVID-19 were PLWD.”

About the Diabetes Centre

Since the Diabetes Centre is a tertiary clinic, the more complicated cases of diabetes will be dealt with. The centre will only accept referrals from the Community Healthcare Centres and secondary level hospitals. However, some referrals will be accepted from private doctors. Referrals to the centre are made via the Vula E-Referral App.


This centre will be used as a fulcrum on which an extensive and expanded diabetes service will be built providing the following services:

  1. Diabetes Clinic: Specifically focusing on complicated diabetes, such as Type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes, diabetes in special situations (patients with organs transplants, cystic fibrosis, steroid-induced, atypical), preoperative optimisation of diabetes. A specialised Diabetes Foot Clinic encompassing a multi-disciplinary team, including a podiatrist, endocrinologist, vascular surgeon, plastic surgeon, will be part of the centre.
  2. Patient Education: A dedicated patient education centre will form part of the GSH Diabetes Centre where patients will be encouraged to attend group sessions and one-on-one education sessions with trained diabetes educators.
  3. Nurse Education: A state-of-the-art Conference Room will form part of the GSH Diabetes Centre and will be used to conduct Basic and Advanced Diabetes Education Courses for all nurses within the public and private sectors.
  4. Doctor Education: The Conference Room will also be used to conduct Masterclasses in diabetes for doctors within the public and private sectors.
  5. Training of endocrinologists/physicians: The expertise and technology in the GSH Diabetes Centre will be used to train the next generation of endocrinologists and physicians for SA and Africa.
  6. Teaching of medical students: The GSH Diabetes Centre will provide an environment in which the next generation of medical students and general practitioners will be empowered to develop a foundation of knowledge for the optimal management of PLWD.
  7. Research: The GSH Diabetes Centre will focus on generating local data that will allow for the optimal management of PLWD in SA and will be used to inform local and national guidelines.
  8. Outreach: The GSH Diabetes Centre will house the expertise and technology to conduct outreach clinics and training regionally, nationally and internationally within Africa.

On the right track

The Provincial Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said, “Having worked as a nurse in the public healthcare system, I have seen first-hand how PLWD struggle with their illness. It also places enormous pressure on our healthcare system. However, we must do more in providing affordable and uninterrupted access to diabetes care for everyone. We know that early diagnosis and access to appropriate care for all types of diabetes can avoid or delay complications in people living with the condition. That is why I am so encouraged by the establishment of the Diabetes Centre. It shows that we are on the right track in the fight against diabetes.”