File image: Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital - Dumisani Sibeko

Much has been said this week regarding the alleged funding crisis around Madiba's dream hospital for children; however this week the hospital moved to dispel the reports.

The hospital did this by announcing their milestone of having treated 200 day patients since their first patient intake in June this year.

"The first patient intake is a seminal milestone," Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital (NMCH) CEO, Dr Mandisa Maholwana said, "All aspects of this transition to the admission of patients were planned with input and guidance from clinicians from our partner hospitals and universities, based on international best practice".

The first department to be opened has been the radiology department, along with anaesthesiology and the pharmacy which all have been operational for about two months.
It took almost R1 billion raised through donor funding to build the state-of-the-art, specialist referral only hospital; boasting 200 beds that will be integrated into the referral networks of hospitals throughout Southern Africa.

According to media reports, the hospital funding for operational costs - provided by the National Department of Health - fell short of the R500 million needed to run it a year.
This as the government had allocated R650 million over three years to support the operational costs. Around R130 million been paid to date, of this to the hospital.

"It goes without saying that there is a clear commitment from The National Treasury and department of health to assist the hospital with operational costs", Maholwana said.
Predominantly MRI's and CT scans have been performed on the 200 patients - and according to the CEO, it was one of the few hospitals she knew of where the patients don't want to be discharged home.

"The patients are loving our facility. There have been many priceless moments of our clinical staff and volunteers playing with little ones and helping them get the assistance they need. It's really satisfying to see that we are already having an impact", she added.

Professor Ashraf Coovadia said that for him, as a clinician, there was no debate on the desperate need for the hospital to carry out complicated paediatric surgeries that the public sector fell short of.

"It's long overdue that we have these facilities. Paediatric intensive care in the country is in dire need of these services. Paediatric ICU beds are insufficient in the province and I'm quite confident that this will improve the services in the province and country".

He added that the hospital - once fully operational - would be a good training ground for  paediatric surgeons, nephrologists, oncologists.

Dr Terrence Carter, deputy director general at the department of health attested to the great need for the hospital.

"This hospital will definitely enable the province and universities to become leaders in this field like the Red Cross Children's Hospital has become. The specialists and sub specialists trained in this hospital will service both the public and private sector. As an example, at the moment in the sector, there are are less than 5 paediatric haematologists in the country. A hospital like this, will ensure for children, there will be specialist available", he stated.

Carter said the department was "very proud" of what the hospital had achieved to date, adding that its objectives and time frames had been realised.

Over the next few months, Maholwana said the hospital would be recruiting and training more specialists, as the phasing in of departments expands to Cardiology , then the renal and surgical units.

She also thanked her first 100 staff members on their contribution in making the phasing in process successful.

Dr Michael Apkon, President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) added that welcoming the first patients was a "uniquely exciting" milestone. He added, "It's not every day that you have the opportunity to build, from the ground up, such a state-of-the-art hospital and every single step must be considered to put the quality of care and patient safety first".