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Twinkle Twinkle - a new children’s hospital

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A new hospital to cater for the needs of children is just what the continent needs.

The launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) brings to four the number of hospitals in Africa that cater for children requiring specialised treatment.

The launch on Friday, 2 December, marked a momentous occasion in honouring the dream of the late statesman, Nelson Mandela, who after his retirement set in motion the work to establish the hospital.

Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health paid tribute to Madiba for his vision and the stakeholders involved in achieving this monumental task.

The hospital bridges the gap in facilities and paediatric skills, said Motsoaledi, addressing the dignitaries and guests at the launch. “This paediatric hospital is sadly only Interior of Nelson Mandela Children's Hospitalthe fourth such hospital on our continent. Besides the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town (which is 60-years-old), the others are in Egypt (2) and one in Kenya.”

There is lots of work to be done considering that there are 19 paediatric hospitals in Australia, 20 in Germany and 157 in the United States.

The NMCH child-friendly and hi-tech hospital is located at the Wits Education Campus on land donated by Wits University in 2011. Wits has played an integral role in the establishment of the NMCH and is the lead academic partner. The NMCH’s proximity to the Wits Medical Campus and the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital will facilitate knowledge sharing.

Highlighting the significance of the hospital, Wits Professor Peter Cooper, who will Chair the Clinical Steering Committee, says:

“Many children who survive life-threatening disease are left with neurological and other handicaps for which there are few services in developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa, and these need to be improved. The addition of a new specialist hospital catering for children will cater for such children, among others, who need specialised care.”

The NMCH will serve as an important site for postgraduate specialist training and world-class clinical research. All academic, medical, nursing and allied staff at the NMCH will have joint appointments with Wits. Furthermore, the NMCH will, through Wits, integrate with the existing tertiary, academic paediatric, and paediatric surgical services in the region.

The University is also represented on the Hospital Trust Board and the Hospital Operating Company Board. Wits Professor Keith Bolton spoke to the Sunday Times about the journey travelled and hopes for the future. Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal who serves on the Board praised the collective work of the partners in erecting the nearly R1billion hospital.

Habib pledged Wits' ongoing supporting adding that: “This hospital will ensure that poor people as much as the rich, have access to premier healthcare facilities."

The launch was attended by Mrs Graca Machel, Madiba’s widow, and local and international philanthropists and donors.  Kids Ambassadors, who have been behind some of the artwork and contributed ideas and raised funds for the hospital were also in attendance. Dignitaries lauded the achievements, which many said spoke volumes about the capacity of South Africans to give and unite for a common purpose.

The hospital will need the ongoing support of the public to sustain its vision to care for children of Africa, said Sibongile Mkhabela, Chief Executive Officer of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Trust. Mkhabela is behind the successful fundraising campaign that has accumulated to a facility of care, love and service that will improve access to specialised care for children - just as Madiba wanted.

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