The Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital celebrates one year. Meet the team behind the success:
A patient’s well-being is determined by the quality of care they receive from nurses, who play an integral role regarding patient outcomes and the experience of a health facility.
This is according to the nursing director at Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH), Jayson Gopiechand, who qualified as a nurse in 2005 and now marshals over 120 caregivers.
Gopiechand said the hospital’s nurses were equipped with the ethos of child and family-centred care, asserting that all his team members were competent to carry out NMCH’s specialised care.
“Nurses define a country’s health status. When it comes to nursing, you are with the patient 24/7. “Nurses have the most patient experience from the admission to the discharge phase,” Gopiechand said.
“Being a new institution, our challenges are quite limiting at this point in time. “When it comes to nursing competence, this is not a real challenge for me at this point in time. The challenge lies in maintaining our competency standards and maintaining our ethos for quality. “We are always directing our attention and resources at upskilling our staff,” Gopiechand added.
He said the hospital was still looking to recruit more nurses, even though there was a shortage in the country and the hospital would upskill them to meet specialised levels.
“We are not saying that we are only looking for experienced or trained nurses. We will look for nurses on the basis of job fit; does the person love working with children? “We have to look at these things – paediatric nursing is a skill in itself.
“We want our nurses to show care; when you are at the bedside, you can showcase that care and concern, including involving the family in the decision-making processes,” Gopiechand said.
Dr Porai Moshesh, paediatrics ICU head
“The day you stop being sorrowful and stop hurting after a child’s death, you should pack your bags and leave because you don’t belong in paediatrics.”
These are the views of the paediatric intensivist who heads NMCH’s ICU.
Moshesh, who has been a paediatrician since 2010 and an intensivist since 2012, said she oversees two senior doctors in her unit as well as about five junior doctors who provide care to critical children, and those who need life support. Moshesh said while the unit did achieve good outcomes, child death was an unfortunate part of the job. She said people should remember that health workers were not superheroes, and that when children sadly died, it would be after the ICU staff at NMCH had given the child “the best care possible”. “When a child dies in ICU, it is very heartbreaking. It breaks people’s spirit and morale.
“After every death, we sit down as a team and we debrief. We also call all the nurses to come down because the nurses take it very hard,” Moshesh said. She added that her love of children began as a schoolgirl in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, where she used to collect and walk with school learners who were six or seven years her junior, as they all went to a Roman Catholic school far from their neighbourhood.
“I love children. I love their resilience and how almost nothing breaks children down, except when adults break them down.
“Children are also so rewarding when they get better,” she enthused
Dr Hopewell Ntsinjana, Head of Cardiology
A heart centre which links basic scientists with clinicians to run cutting-edge research and address the heavy backlog of surgeries is on the horizon. This is what Dr Hopewell Ntsinjana, who is NMCH’s head of cardiology, is hoping for.
As one of the less than 50 paediatric cardiologists in the country, Ntsinjana would like to place the hospital’s cardiology unit at the forefront of internationally renowned research as well as swelling the pool of a rare breed of specialists.
He expressed pride at what he said was the world-class technology the hospital had invested in, which he said would assist in easing the backlog of children who are born with treatable congenital diseases in the country.
Even though the unit had 29 beds, Ntsinjana added, this would help alleviate the ever-swelling logjam of much needed child heart treatment. “This (29 beds) is a much welcomed number as it encompasses both pre- and postoperative care. This entails both medical and surgical care. This is a big platform where we hope to address some of the traditional backlogs,” Ntsinjana said.
“If I can see myself filling those 29 beds… on a continuous rotation basis so that those who are better can go home or move to regional facilities so that we can keep the wheel rolling, that is when I can start seeing the impact of what I’m doing in this place,” he added.
He has almost 10 years’ experience in paediatric cardiology, including a PhD which he obtained at the Great Ormond Street in London, England.
Dr Jason Labuschagne, head of neurosurgery
“The dream we have for the hospital is to be comparable to all other reputable paediatric neurosurgery units in the world.”
These are the lofty ambitions of Dr Jason Labuschagne, whose unit aims to conduct between 250 and 300 operations a year.
Labuschagne has been at the hospital since April, and has been a neurosurgeon for 12 years.
He’s proud to have started the unit a week earlier than anticipated. He’s one of two specialists in the department. His goal is to make the unit comparable to international best standards.
“In this case, you can get a reputation as an international unit, where you can start training international fellows. We can have people coming to us to specialise in paediatric neurosurgery from the US, Canada or Europe. “But you need to reach that critical mass of 250 to 300 cases a year, and you probably need a faculty of about four dedicated paediatric neurosurgeons. That’s what I’d like to shoot for,” Labuschagne declared, adding that they were giving themselves three years to achieve this.
However, he emphasised that a competent team was required, which included theatre nurses, anaesthetists and other specialist professionals. “What is great about this hospital is that you have social workers who engage with the children even before they go to operation. The social workers do play therapy about what’s going to happen during the operation for the kids not to be scared. We have physiotherapists who see the children before the surgery, which is rare.”
He said his love for kids was what drove him to paediatric neurosurgery, saying he loved them for their honesty.
“This may sound harsh, but if you intervene with a 65-year-old… you may win them 10 good years. When you intervene with a five-year-old, you win them 60 good years,” Labuschagne said.