SA at work: The hard edge of beauty in the heart of Mitchells Plain

2014-02-16 14:01

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Mitchells Plain Hospital has its own resident white-speckled barn owl to keep rodents and snakes at bay.

Add to that the bright mosaic murals, five hectares of flowering fynbos and landscaped rocks, the beautiful courtyards and skylights pouring natural light into corridors decorated in colours scientifically proven to uplift the mood and you’ve got a beautiful space for healing.

But the hospital is also fitted with metal detectors at its entrances, bearing testament to its location in an area that SA Police Service statistics identify as among the country’s most violent?–?1.8?million serious crimes have been reported in the past year.

Security guards say that guns and knives are confiscated daily. In a corridor, a young man in a wheelchair sits with his scrawny, plaster-encased leg ­extended before him.

Upon closer inspection, 16-year-old Austin Lee Beukes’ eyes are bloodshot and glazed. The teenager was caught in crossfire two days before. A bullet, still lodged in his shin, was scheduled to be surgically removed the day after our visit.

“Yes, it’s very sore,” he says.

His mother, Zara, is at his side. “This is a good hospital. The care has been good,” she says, smiling. Zara has just visited Austin and his father, Mervin, who was hospitalised for an unrelated gun injury.

As a district hospital, Mitchells Plain Hospital does not have a high-care ward. Patients needing this type of treatment are moved to the Groote Schuur Hospital.

The hospital was officially opened on November 12 last year.

The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission is responsible for monitoring how taxpayers’ money is spent on a national, provincial and municipal level so that ­infrastructure projects stay on track to benefit communities as fast as possible.

Within days of opening, the hospital was filled with patients and was functioning at full capacity. But it was not all smooth sailing.

Authorities had to investigate complaints involving two deaths. The provincial department of health attributed these to “teething problems” and called an emergency meeting on ­December 27 to address them.

The hospital is being extended and 70 more nurses and six more doctors were appointed in December and January.

Inside the building on a recent visit, corridors gleamed brightly and patients waited quietly, seated on upholstered chairs.

Inside the glass-fronted “asthma room”?–?with its floor-to-ceiling horizon pictures of the sea – patients reclined in 10 chocolate-brown armchairs, their faces covered with oxygen masks.

Next door in the resuscitation ward, Dr Titiselani Mabasa, who has worked at the hospital for a month, looked tired but smiled.

“There’s always room for improvement, but the teething problems are being addressed,” he said.

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha was at the premises for a meeting on the day and agreed to join City Press for a brief photoshoot. He pointed out the mosaic murals as one of his favourite features of the hospital.

In the entrance foyer, two figures – a doctor and a nurse – greet patients on opposite sides of the walls. Around the corner, a passage is lined with pictures embellished with hearts, flowers and hands, meant to convey healing. Messages from children are spelt in small mosaic tiles. “I wish my dad would stop smoking,” reads one. “I hope my mummy gets well, have faith,” reads another.

Patients and visitors may recognise the style of Cape Town ceramicist Lovell Friedman, who also created the mosaic work at the Cape Town Stadium’s public bus station.

Working with eight mosaic artists and trainers, Friedman worked with seven local children over 11 months to complete the hospital’s beautiful murals.

Botha also praised energy-saving measures at the hospital. These include motion detectors that cause lights to switch off when they are not needed.

From December, a free shuttle service has transported patients from the area’s bustling arterial AZ Berman Drive to the hospital.

Andre Blignaut, a commissioner at the hospital, says: “It’s only 500m away, but that can be a lot when you’re sick.” Catering, cleaning and recycling at the hospital are contracted to companies in the area, helping to create jobs.

All in all, members of the community?–?who have waited for the hospital for 20 years, since a promise was made in 1994?–?agree that it is a “gift” to have a multimillion-rand state-of-the-art health facility right on their doorstep.

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