The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, an idea that began with a vision by Nelson Mandela as far back as his presidency in the 1990s, has finally become a reality.
The hospital, overseen by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, along with various local and international partners, is dedicated exclusively to paediatric medicine and care. It will welcome its first patients on 2 December 2016.
The world-class hospital has had a difficult road to realisation, struggling to raise the $100-million (R1.4-billion) needed to complete the project in the midst of a tough global economic environment and, more crucially during the last stages of the project, without the guidance and vision of the hospital’s patron, Mandela, who died in December 2013.
“It’s a miracle, or just short of a miracle. The children’s hospital was a dream,” Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, told AFP during a media tour of the facilities in November 2016.
“It was very difficult to do it without him … extremely difficult, but people were ready to hear us. People could relate to his vision. There is a number of ways that you can remember him; he was a statesman. You could build a statue … but at his core, he loved children.”
Finally breaking ground at its site in Parktown, Johannesburg in 2014, the hospital received financial support from a host of South African and international philanthropists and organisations, including the Bill Gates Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, Islamic Relief Worldwide and industrialist Eric Samson.
Additional financing came from donations made by millions of ordinary South Africans via SMS and through various fundraising events held since 2009.
The three-floor facility, which is part of the University of Witwatersrand’s medical faculty, specialises in paediatric cancer care, and kidney and lung treatment, as well as heart, chest and brain surgery, and a range of other children’s medical needs. While Africa does have four other paediatric specialist hospitals – one each in Cape Town and Nairobi, and two in Cairo – the new Johannesburg hospital is the most advanced facility in Africa.
The hospital is equipped with the latest medical equipment and technology, including the most advanced operating theatres in the country, offering the best all- inclusive diagnosis and treatment regime on the continent.
Equipment was able to identify and analyse the “minutest” details, hospital project leader Joe Seoloane leader told AFP, “(making) diagnoses that general equipment might not pick up”.
The hospital also provides real-time video conferencing, enabling doctors and medical students across the continent to access consultations and procedures done onsite.
With a staff of 450 expertly trained paediatric nurses and 150 specialist doctors sourced from South Africa and the rest of the world, the hospital offers free services to those from poorer backgrounds and only charges those who can afford it.
The brightly painted wards, colourful furnishings and the latest multimedia technology – including in-house radio and television channels tailored to its young patients – all help the hospital present a comforting and fun environment.
“It’s a children’s hospital and must specialise in conditions that are unique to children,” Seoloane said. “(The hospital is) proud and excited that … on 2 December, we can officially say (Africa has a children’s hospital on par with the rest of the world).”