Mandela's legacy children’s hospital is ‘awe-inspiring’

2014-12-05 14:30
Supplied by NMCH

Supplied by NMCH

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It was Nelson Mandela's dying wish to build a children’s hospital in Johannesburg as a legacy for future generations. As we honour the first anniversary of his death, News24 tracks the progress of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

Mandela believed that a “society’s soul is revealed by how it treats its children”.

Following Mandela’s death his widow Graça Machel revealed that building a hospital was his last wish, as children were “very dear to Madiba”. She has promised to fulfil his dream in her lifetime.

Today, Sibongile Mkhabela, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, says the scale of the R1bn project is unlike anything South Africa has encountered before.

'Incredible project'

There are only four specialist children’s hospitals across Africa: one in Cape Town, one in Kenya and two in Egypt. In Australia there are 20, while Canada boasts 23 and the US 157.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) project began in 2007 - some 12 years after Madiba established the Children’s Fund, which initiated the project.

Mkhabela told News24: “This is an incredible project; possibly the biggest civil-society led project ever in South Africa.

“We work hard to ensure that we carry through Madiba’s dream in his memory and to have a hospital [that] will be a living monument to him. It is humbling as it is awe-inspiring to be part of a project like this.”

To date, the Trust has raised R580m of the R1bn needed to build and equip the hospital – as well as train the medical professionals who will work in it.

Though Madiba himself is not thought to have personally bequeathed any money to the hospital, Mkhabela said: “Our mandate, as a legacy organisation, is to build this hospital and we do so in Madiba’s name - that is the role we have been bestowed”.

Millions raised

It has global fundraising teams in the UK, the US and South Africa who push “tirelessly” for more funding, she said.

Mkhabela added: “Most of the funding comes from high-net worth individuals and corporates - and we are happy to say that more than 50% is raised locally.”

International donors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Islamic Relief, while local donors range from South African businessman Tim Tebeila’s Foundation to the Pick n Pay group and Nedbank.

The NMCH is being built in Parktown, Johannesburg, on the campus of the University of Witwatersrand on land donated in 2009.

It will be a 200-bed specialised paediatric hospital - with plans for a possible expansion to 300 beds.

The focus of the hospital will remain on “our centres of excellence”, Mkhabela said - haematology and oncology, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonology, neurosciences, nephrology, craniofacial and general paediatric surgery.

'No child turned away'

Mkhabela said that the Trust “enjoys the support” of all of the Mandela legacy organisations, as well as Madiba’s own children. After the hospital opens, the Trust will continue to fund new equipment and any future construction.

Meanwhile, the government has committed to cover the costs of operating the hospital, though it will be managed by a private operator.

Mkhabela said Mediclinic is the “preferred operator for this stage of the project”.

Either way, it was Madiba’s dream for the hospital to serve all children of southern Africa - regardless of race, socio-economic status or the ability to pay.

As such, Mkhabela said: “The hospital will work on a referral basis and no child will be turned away due to inability to pay”.

The hospital is expected to be ready for its first patient between April and June 2016.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  graça machel  |  johannesburg

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