New doctor for groundbreaking haematology unit
Posted on 25 June 2021
Dr Perry Loebenberg has joined Mediclinic Constantiaberg’s renowned haematology and bone marrow transplant unit.
Established in 1995, Constantiaberg Haematology offers a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team approach, currently consisting of three specialist haematologists, experienced nursing staff, pharmacists, a laboratory technologist, a psychologist/play therapist, a psychiatrist, physiotherapists, a dietician and input from the microbiology department. This allows patients the convenient service of having treatment under one roof in one department.
Constantiaberg Haematology was the first private unit of its kind. Today, co-founder Dr Mike du Toit together with Dr Danie Kotze and their team are involved with all aspects of clinical haematology including haemophilia and oncology management of leukaemias, lymphomas, myelomas and bone marrow transplantation for haematological and other disorders. The clinic has facilities to treat patients from anywhere in South Africa or elsewhere in Africa.
Dr Loebenberg admits, “Alongside Professor Peter Jacobs, Mike built the unit into the pinnacle of private haematology practices in South Africa. I was both apprehensive and excited about my appointment. I couldn’t wait!”
After completing his medical degree at Stellenbosch University, Dr Loebenberg provided care to patients with a broad range of malignant and benign haematological disorders at Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein. In January 2019 he joined the Division of Clinical Haematology, University of Cape Town, as a fellow and completed his sub-specialist training in May 2021.
“I am passionate about improving patient access to haematological care and novel therapeutics in South Africa by providing care within a well-designed clinical trial whenever one is available,” he says.
“The big difference between the work I did at Groote Schuur and this new appointment is that in the private healthcare environment there are more resources to provide cutting-edge treatments, and this also means we can really go the extra mile to help our patients.” Dr Loebenberg adds that there is a crucial shortage of haematologists in South Africa. “According to World Health Organization standards, there should be about 600 haematologists for our current population, and we have less than 30 in South Africa – so there is an immense need for this expertise.”
The state-of-the-art unit is a comprehensive haematology referral centre for the diagnosis and treatment of haematology disorders and malignancies such as leukaemia, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, aplastic anaemia and various other types of anaemias, and bone marrow disorders, offering treatment based on international research protocols.
“We offer a full range of haematology services – from treating people with iron deficiencies and looking after people with eating disorders to blood cancers and related diseases that affect the bone marrow,” says Dr du Toit. “In short, we deal with anything to do with the blood – ranging from whether there’s too much or too little of it – and whether it’s ‘too thick or too thin’ and everything in between.”
As incoming Dr Loebenberg adds, this field is highly integrated with the laboratory side of management. “At Constantiaberg Haematology, we can diagnose leukaemia in our on-site laboratory and provide intensive treatment in our therapeutic facility,” he says.
The unit also has a dedicated isolation facility for neutropaenic patients and those undergoing bone marrow (stem cell) transplants. The team works with both the South African bone marrow registry and the Sunflower Fund, and so the centre is able to offer both autografts and allografts (sibling donors and matched unrelated donors). “DKMS, the largest conglomerate of bone marrow donor registries in the world, started as a German registry and has now joined forces with the Sunflower Fund,” Dr Loebenberg explains. “We’re very excited about this new allegiance and collaboration as donors often cross international boundaries and we are now able to source stem cells more efficiently from all over the world.”
Constantiaberg Haematology has two apheresis machines for collecting haematological stem cells in peripheral blood to be used in bone marrow transplants. Staff are also able to administer therapeutic plasma exchange therapy for the treatment of various haematological and neurological disorders. In addition, nursing staff are able to administer outpatient chemotherapy infusions or injections in the eight-bed ward. Intravenous iron and immunoglobulin replacement therapy is administered in the same facility and daily ward rounds are complemented by weekly haematology, radiology and microbiology rounds.
Dr Mike du Toit completed his haematology training at UCT/GSH as a senior specialist and in 1995 joined the late Professor Peter Jacobs to found the first private haematology practice in Cape Town. In 1998 they moved to the current rooms at Mediclinic Constantiaberg as the original ‘Haem Team’ and were later joined by Dr Danie Kotze.