Facelift for KZN children’s hospital

The children’s hospital in its heydays.

Prof Bill Winship worked at the hospital for
many years before it was closed.
(Images: KZN Children’s Hospital)

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Bongani Nkosi

Renovation of the old Addington Children’s Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal is expected to get underway soon to revive one of the province’s once state-of-the-art health facilities.

It has been renamed the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital and architects are gearing up to return it to its former glory. “We’re ready to go ahead with rebuilding,” Dr Catherine Burns, a legal technical advisor at the Maternal Adolescent and Child Health (Match), said in an interview. Match is heading the restoration project alongside other organisations.

Although the renovations have been stalled for two weeks due to legal negotiations with the eThekwini Municipality, Burns said these would be resolved soon.

The project has the back-up of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and other respected organisations such as the Cape Town division of the International Red Cross and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. “We have a 100% support of the province,” said Burns.

About R118-million (about US$16-million) has been set for the project. Funding comes from province’s health department, private organisations and NGOs. “Most of the money comes from the private sector. We’ve raised millions of rands,” Burns said.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo officially launched the renovation project on 15 July 2010. The health department described the plans to restore Addington as a “landmark” decision.

The hospital is located on Durban’s beachfront. Built in 1931 through funds raised by then Durban mayor Mary Siedle, it was closed in 1984 and now stands derelict. “It was starved of money by the apartheid government,” said Burns.

Prof Jerry Coovadia, local world-renowned paediatrician and a member of Match, and other leading health practitioners have been fighting for the hospital’s revival in recent years, said Burns. Prof Bill Winship, a former principal paediatrician at the Addington Children’s Hospital who served there for many years, is also involved in the project.

Meeting needs of KZN’s children

KwaZulu-Natal’s health system is desperate to have the children’s hospital working at full capacity again, according to Burns. It will help address children’s health demands in the province.

“The health needs of children in KwaZulu-Natal are pressing,” she said. “We’re definitely desperate to have this hospital.”

Sue Meyer, of the neighbouring Addington Hospital, said about 500 babies are born every month in their hospital, which accommodates all types of patients.

The children’s hospital will improve public health in the province, she said. “There isn’t a children’s hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. Where do children go?”

As KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number HIV/Aids cases in South Africa, the revamped hospital will provide a vital function in treating affected children in one of its 15 clinics.

The clinics will all offer various services, including maternity, eye-care, rehabilitation and mental health. The Choc Childhood Cancer Foundation will help run a hospice, Burns said.

A 24-bed clinic will cater for adolescents and social service workers will also be stationed at the hospital.

There are also plans to offer training facilities for future health-care workers.

KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital will have a total of 120 beds, operating day and night. “But the bulk of the hospital will be outpatient-based, what Americans call a day hospital,” said Burns.

It will cater for children requiring public care and those with private health insurance, according to Burns.

The “high-class specialist” services offered will hopefully attract patients with private healthcare funds, Burns said. “It’s not excluding. Even children of the rich will get something here that they cannot get anywhere else. This is where the importance of public and private partnership comes in.”

Pride of the province

Once the restoration is complete, Burns believes the institution will be one of the prides of the province. “This will be a place we can be proud of. We can say we gave children the most beautiful hospital,” she said.

It’s expected to open doors for all services in two and a half years.