New neuroscience centre launched

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Neuroscience Centre, are director of the Neuroscience Institute at UCT and Head of Neurosurgery at Groote Schuur, Professor Graham Fieggen, Groote Schuur hospital CEO, Dr Bhavna Patel, Professor Gregory Hussey of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Ursel Barnes from The Gabriel Foundation, Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, David Barnes of The Gabriel Foundation and Head of Health in the province Dr Beth Engelbrecht.

The newly completed Neuroscience Centre was launched at Groote Schuur Hospital on Tuesday March 10.

The centre was established through a partnership between the University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital and the Western Cape Department of Health.

It will house the UCT Neuroscience Institute, as well as the Groote Schuur Hospital Clinical Neuroscience Centre, where researchers and clinicians will work together to treat brain and nervous system
disorders that burden South Africans.

Director of the Neuroscience Institute at UCT and Head of Neurosurgery at Groote Schuur, Professor Graham Fieggen says it is part of a project started in 2008 with the goal of improving neuroscience research and postgraduate education.

Professor Fieggen paid tribute to the project management team, engineers, designers and quantity surveyors that converted the old 1936 J-Block building into a modern world class facility.

The actual construction of the centre took 23 months at a cost of R140 million.

Professor Fieggen says this new facility will transform neurosurgery in South Africa.

It is four storeys and includes a dissection station for future neurosurgeons to train on cadavers.

There is a operating microscope which is used to do brain analysis using high resolution imaging as well as a neuronavigator which is used in theatre to help neurosurgeons navigate their way in finding small brain tumours.

There are also consultation rooms and a library.

Fourth-year medical student at UCT, Zi Yang says the innovations that they have in the lab are state of the art. “We as students won’t get to experience it now, though it is something to look forward to and aspire to,” he said.

Another medical student at UCT, Jeandre Malherbe says it’s amazing to have this facility in the country and that UCT would provide doctors with the means to do their neuroscience research.

UCT Vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng says the neuroscience centre is the beginning of renewed hope in providing a world class research space and clinical space to study and treat mental and neurological disorders in the country.

“The centre is one example of how UCT is bringing world class expertise into Africa to build local capacity, understanding and treatment of the human brain with emphasis on the need of impoverished and developing communities, “ she said.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo says she is proud of the work done on this building and pays tribute to the support of the donors in its completion. “ This centre can foster growth of future postgraduate medical students that are going into this field of medicine,” she said.

Dr Mbombo says the country still needs to develop more people who can specialise in spinal injuries, brain injuries, brain infections and more psychiatrists.