The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital celebrated another milestone on Tuesday with the re-opening of the upgraded D-1 Specialist Surgical Ward.
The R 11.5 million Ward is the first of three wards to be upgraded through a new fundraising partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health and the Children’s Trust, the fundraising branch of the Hospital—proving that it is possible for the public and the private health sector to work together towards a common and rewarding goal.
The Provincial Government of the Western Cape contributed over R 4.5 million to the project while the Children’s Trust raised the remaining funds. The government has pledged to fund 50 percent of the costs to upgrade the remaining three wards.
Western Cape Health Minister Theuns Botha told a standing-room audience that he wanted to duplicate success stories like the Red Cross throughout the Provence.
Botha said that the government has a long way to go to address and rectify the glaring disparities between health services in Cape Town and townships like Khayelitsha. However, he added that the successful public-private partnership between the Red Cross and the government gives him hope for the future.
“What I experience [at the Red Cross] is just amazing,” Botha said. “It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Like most wards at the Red Cross, the Surgical Ward had not been upgraded since 1956 when the hospital opened. Dr. Anthony Figaji, Head of Paediatric Neurosurgery, invoked the well-known metaphor of A Tale of Two Cities as he described the differences between the old wards and the upgraded facilities.
“You can’t bring new equipment into an old ward and expect it to work,” Figaji said. “The public-private partnership is representative of everything that is good in this country.”
Figaji said the parents of his patients don’t care about what the ward looks like; they just want to be guaranteed that their child will receive the best care possible. He added that the upgraded facility will help ensure that the Red Cross continues to live up to parents’ and physicians’ expectations.
Children are admitted to the D-1 Surgical Ward before and after surgical procedures. With almost 180 admissions a day, D-1 caters to more patients than any other ward in the hospital.
Muhammad Hendricks, a 12-year-old patient in the Ward, is just one example of the hundreds of patient success stories that unfold behind the walls of the Red Cross every day. Just over a month ago, Muhammad woke up in the early hours of the morning with severe back pain. His frantic parents took him to every doctor they could think of before he was finally admitted to the Red Cross where a tumor was found on his spine.
There was a very high risk that Muhammad could have been paralyzed during the removal procedure due to the location of the tumor and the abundance of nerves in the spine. Dr. Figaji and his team worked for more than four hours to remove the tumor. Today, Muhammad, a soft-spoken and shy boy, chases after his little brother in the new ward.
“He’s unstoppable,” Muhammad’s father said warmly.
The Children’s Trust will begin critical upgrades to the Burns Ward in October. Like most wards in the hospital, the Burns Ward has not been upgraded since the 1950s, and although murals and pictures adorn the walls of the hallway, the ward is severely overcrowded, and the facilities are quickly becoming outdated.
The Burns Ward treats about 3,500 patients a year; 98 percent of children who are admitted to the Burns Ward are from disadvantaged communities. More than half of the children treated are under the age of six and many are admitted with hot water burns or electrical burns from exposed wiring.
Because Burns patients don’t have layers of skin to insulate and protect them, they constantly lose their body heat and are at a greater risk for infection and sepsis. The new Burns Unit will be upgraded to meet international standards which will include a new “Decontamination Station” to help reduce the chance of infection as well as better heating and ventilation to help keep the ward at a stable 28 degrees Celsius.
“What’s so sad about burns patients is that they are not sick, they just get burned,” said Sandi Sher, communications coordinator for the Trust. “But the hospital is not negative; it’s actually a place of hope. Kids don’t moan as much as [adults], they just mange things that I don’t know if I could manage.”
The project is estimated to cost R16 million. The government has pledged to fund half of the building costs, and the Trust must raise the rest of the costs plus additional funds for equipment.
To learn more about how you can help the patients at the Red Cross, or to donate to the Children’s Trust, visit: www.childrenshospitaltrust.co.za.