The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg officially opened its doors to the public on Friday, 12 years after the first brick was laid to bring the former iconic president’s idea to life.
This brings to fruition the ambitious task of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, which was established to raise R1 billion from the private and public sectors, as well as ordinary individuals, to build a state-of-the-art 200-bed and 10-theatre paediatric hospital.
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital is home to more paediatric ICU beds than all of Gauteng’s hospitals combined.
The referral-only hospital boasts 17 dialysis machines and seven imaging units that can treat up to 2 500 patients a month to provide lifesaving treatment, from neurology through to heart and pyschiatric conditions.
Universities in the province came to the party as Wits donated the land on which the hospital is built and a University of Johannesburg student designed the beds “to be more child-friendly”.
The hospital is expected to begin admitting patients by mid-2017.
Programme director and the hospital’s ambassador, rapper ProVerb, reminded the audience that Monday would exactly be three years since Mandela died.
— ProVerb (@ProVerbMusic) December 2, 2016
Chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust Sibongile Mkhabela thanked all the donors who had contributed towards realising Mandela’s dream, especially the Holland-based Noortman family, which had donated $1 million “in the early days”.
Mkhabela said the hospital would break the glass ceiling to primary healthcare for children. She said the hospital was a true testament to Mandela’s vision of a nation caring for its children.
“Today is for us to say thank you for trusting us with the birth of this facility. It is in diversity that we found our strength,” Mkhabela said.
“There is no exclusivity in this place. Our children will now get first-class service. The glass ceiling we put up for the poor needs to be broken. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is ready to recreate and re-imagine itself. At the core of this facility is a beating heart.”
Government said the Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital would add much-needed skills and technology to Gauteng’s ability to treat sick children.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Friday said the hospital was a strangely financed “animal” and not owned by private sector or government, or any one entity.
“Children are going to enter this hospital according to their needs, not according to the depths of their pockets. Government will support the hospital forever, we have been working with hospital’s trust,” said Motsoaledi.
Motsoaledi decried the state of child neglect in the world, saying that Mandela had set a precedence how to threat children in South Africa.
“Many of us share the love of children regardless of race and our different backgrounds. Sadly many children are neglected and raised in poverty,” Motsoaledi said.
“According to the United Nations, 151 million children around the world grow up with one of their parents dead.”
Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said the hospital should not just be an elite healthcare facility carrying the late statesman’s name, but should set new standards for what a children’s hospital can achieve.
“This is about raising the bar and having a example on what every paediatric ward and what every single children’s hospital can achieve. It is for South Africa to have a model hospital and this should not be a facility for the elite… on the contrary, it is to show the journey we all have to go through and what we have to achieve,” Machel at the launch of the hospital situated in Parktown, in the north of Johannesburg.
Machel is the chairperson of the hospital’s trust.
The late statesman used a third of his salary to support the fund, said Machel. “He also rallied his friends to contribute and even challenged them to match his own contribution. Without the NMCF we would not have this children’s hospital. As we honour Madiba today, we also honour the NMCF and the trust of the hospital, which I am honoured to serve.
“When we say children first, we really mean it. Children deserve the very best a society can provide… and Madiba said to us: every society will be judged according to the way it treats its children. The children’s hospital is exactly stating that… they are to have the very best they can.”
She said every worker at the hospital has been trained in how to look after children.
“Every cleaner, every security guard has been trained to know this is a place for children. I also thank those who gave us an opportunity and enabled us to train the people we need for this hospital. We will continue to walk the journey and ensure that this hospital does not reach a state where it cannot receive children because there are no resources to keep it running… that is the task of the trust.”
Machel thanked donors, partners, NMCF CEO Sibongile Mkhabela and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for supporting the project. There were many who opposed the establishment of the children’s hospital, she said.
Today the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital is officially opened. South Africans should stand proud for this special achievement ✊???????????? pic.twitter.com/HdkrGzCjqS
— Bra Nape (@Nape_MM) December 2, 2016
— SABC News Online (@SABCNewsOnline) December 2, 2016
— Proudly South African (@ProudlySA) December 2, 2016
— How_Art™ (@How_Art_M) December 2, 2016
Gorgeous decor at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital ❤️❤️❤️????????????????????????✊????✊????✊???? @_nmch_ #NMCHBringsHope @vuyolutseke ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/OLdTx9zDzz
— SJ Bodeeezy (@SJFirestarter) December 2, 2016
— Victoria Stephen (@EMcardiac) December 2, 2016
— Kaya FM Talk (@KayaFMTalk) November 17, 2016
– African News Agency (ANA)