Princess of Africa, Musician and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka helps a mother feed her pre-mature daughter in a Kangaroo ward at Rahima Moosa hospital yesterday. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Two South Africa’s prominent women this week took a walk in the lives of health care professionals who work tirelessly to care for new lives despite the mountain of challenges they faced.

Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) chairwoman Graça Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, visited the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Joburg on Monday.

This comes days after the Saturday Star reported about dire constraints public hospitals endure owing to the shortage of intensive care unit beds in their neonatal wards.

While at the hospital, Machel, who was also there on other work commitments, took time out to speak to mothers of newborns.

Accompanied by the hospital’s CEO Susan Jordaan during a tour of the various paediatric facilities, Machel said her husband sought to leave a lasting legacy for many SA children when the NMCH was built.

“It is a dream I have committed myself to. At the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital no child will be turned away. When it opens in 2014 it will be a world-class paediatric hospital,” she said.

The hospital will be offering world-class services and tertiary care for children in the country and in the SADC region.

A grim reality that alarmed another renowned individual is that hospitals were often forced to turn away sickly newborns because of the lack of space and the scarcity of adequately trained staff.

During her visit and a tour of the same hospital yesterday, humanitarian and local musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka was informed by the hospital’s head of paediatrics Professor Keith Bolton that while the hospital had ventilators and other equipment in its ICU, it didn’t have the manpower to care for the young ones.

As a result, the shortage of skilled nurses meant that the equipment could not be used for babies who needed it the most. Babies could not access the care they needed.

However, Bolton emphasised that it was important to note the dedication displayed by many health care workers and doctors in the hospital, who worked hours to care for the children.

The hospital has established various programmes aimed at helping mothers and little ones.

One such programme is Rahima Moosa’s successful Kangaroo Care initiative that helps mothers play a hands-on role in the development of their premature babies. The hospital’s facility maintenance manager Gustav Celliers said the walls at the hospital were painted with bright colours and cartoon characters to create a conducive, warm and friendly environment for the children.

Chaka Chaka

said: “I’ve never been here before but what I’ve seen here is heart-warming. The staff are great and the hospital is clean.”

Regarding the shortage of staff, she said the revelation was shocking since there were so many children who needed to be looked after.

“We need the staff. It is very important that they (the children) are taken good care of so that they grow up to be good adults. We therefore need to pay these professionals descent money and respect the work they do,” Chaka Chaka said.

It is thought that many nurses either flock to private hospitals because of the unbearable working conditions in the public sector, or leave the country for better pay.

In March this year trade union Solidarity complained that the closure of nursing colleges 16 years ago had a negative impact on providing high-quality health services in the country.

Chaka Chaka said it was imperative that the government now prioritised care for newborns and children.

Saturday Star