Cape Town-150915-Foreign Donor of R10m for the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Diego Biasi officially handed over a check this morning. In pic with Biasi is 15 year old, Nikita Scott who has been a patient at the hospital for many years -Reporter-Sipokazi-Photographer-Tracey Adams

Cape Town - Red Cross Children’s Hospital is one step closer to a brand new state-of-the-art paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) – thanks to a multimillion-rand financial boost from an Italian businessman and philanthropist.

In memory of his business partner and friend who died of cancer last year, Diego Biasi donated R10 million to the Red Cross Children’s Trust for the upgrade of the ICU, which will almost double its capacity when completed.

During a cheque handover on Tuesday, Biasi promised to help fundraise R37m through his Quercus Foundation for the project over the next three years.

He acknowledged that coming to Cape Town to make the donation to the hospital was inspired by the memory of his friend Simone Borla, also from Italy.

“Simone used to come to Cape Town with his family every year for Christmas. He had invited me to join him several times, but I never had the time.

“When he died last year I decided to set up a foundation in his memory. I specifically wanted to support a Cape Town project as one of the foundation’s first initiatives as the city was his favourite holiday destination,” he said.

After visiting Red Cross Hospital for the first time last year, Biasi said he was touched when witnessing the health challenges the little children faced. He was also impressed by the dedication of medical staff.

Apart from the construction of the ICU, he would also be financially supporting the Breathe Easy tracheotomy and home ventilation homecare programme, which provides children with breathing problems with critical life-saving equipment.

“I first visited the Breathe Easy project and I was so touched by what staff are doing for these little children who are struggling with breathing.

“I was impressed with their innovation and success stories. After hearing about the challenges faced by the ICU I just couldn’t look away. The commitment and passion the medical staff had shown was amazing and rare,” he said.

When completed the R100m expansion of the ICU would see the 22-bed capacity increased to 39 beds. The new unit was also expected to improve the quality of medical services and equipment provided for each bed while the extra space would make it possible for families to be at the bedside of their children throughout their stay – a critical component to healing.

Professor Andrew Argent, the head of the paediatric ICU, said the hospital’s existing ICU, which was more than 95 percent full, was not ideal due to space constraints.

“It is virtually full and that means that we can’t accommodate all emergencies, and at times we have to cancel planned surgeries.

“We also don’t have enough space for isolating infectious diseases or children who are very vulnerable to infections,” he said.

Argent said the new ICU would not only provide adequate space for medical staff to work in, but would be used as a training venue for doctors from Africa and abroad. It would also see an additional 10 “high care neonatal beds” added.

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Cape Argus