ICU upgrade boosts children’s health care

The new ICU unit at Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital has 39 new beds to care for patients.

No parent wants their child to see the inside of an ICU, but those who end up in the new one at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital will at least be assured of getting world-class care.

The new paediatric ICU was unveiled on Thursday October 26. It cost R230 million and is the second-biggest project funded by the Children’s Hospital Trust in collaboration with the Western Cape Health Department.

The unit boasts an extra 39 beds, overnight facilities for parents and eight additional isolation cubicles for neonatal care.

The health department contributed R125 million and the Children’s Hospital Trust raised
R75 million.

ICU medical director Professor Andrew Argent said that, on average, 1 300 to 1 400 patients come through the unit annually.

“So in the last 17 or 18 years, we’ve had about 25 000 children come through the unit.”

He said many of those children would not have survived without ICU care – a fact that underscored the significance of opening the new unit.

“Our mortality rate has actually dropped from 15% to 5%, which is extraordinary in keeping with standards of the world. With every child that comes through, four or five other people are deeply involved in that experience… The effect of ICU makes a profound difference.”

The new facilities, he said, would help to keep down infection rates and they were linked to an online patient record-keeping system that would integrate comprehensive medical history data.

Ziya Koopman, 10, spoke of her experience in ICU and how the new facility would benefit both patients and their parents. “I was diagnosed with a very rare and nasty disease which turned my own body against me.

“I landed in ICU three times and used 90% of all the machinery in ICU and the radiology department. Due to a brain seizure I had in ICU, it was hard for me to communicate with people for several weeks. I couldn’t eat and the only thing that kept me going was the awesome team of doctors,”said Ziya.

Cadi de Jager, 10, also spoke of her time at the hospital and how she did her bit to help raise funds for the new ICU.

“I was first diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a benign brain tumour.

Two years later I was then diagnosed with a Rathke’s cleft cyst, which is a cyst, not a brain tumour, and much less worse than a brain tumour. I had it removed endoscopically, through my nose at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

“During my stay, a lady from the hospital came to interview me, she told me that I impressed her so much and I was asked to be the mini ambassador for Red Cross Children’s Hospital during a major campaign.

“We held a high tea in Paarl which raised R40 000, and we then had a Richard Ceasar evening (a jazz guitarist) and we also had a potjiekos. Because of me and the functions and donations, I raised over R100 000 for the hospital.”

Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said: “I have two daughters, and I’m lucky that they are older now and none have had serious illnesses, but even with illnesses they’ve had I felt as though I wanted to swop places with them. Twice I slept on the hospital floor at the time one of them was sick.

“By 2030 we’re expecting one billion children in Africa. I’m quoting this because Red Cross is not only for the Western Cape or SA, but it’s for Africa. We have a need to have more of this development.”