Upgraded and Expanded Intensive Care Unit to provide Life-saving Treatment
With a dire shortage of Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in South Africa, a R100 million-plus expansion and upgrade of the Paediatric ICU (PICU) at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital will significantly improve intensive care services given to critically ill and injured children. Capacity will also be greatly increased, addressing the desperate need for more beds to treat the country’s littlest patients.
Construction has officially begun on the unit, which is expected to be completed by October 2017. The new PICU will be able to accommodate extra patients in need. The 22-bed facility will increase to 39 bed spaces, which will include an urgently needed 10-bed High Care Unit for neonates as well as isolation cubicles. The high care unit and the isolation cubicles will ensure optimal treatment through better infection control, which is critical in ICU.
The expansion and upgrade will also create a comfortable and supportive space for parents as well as breastfeeding mothers. Currently, family members have no privacy or space between life-saving equipment as they sit vigil at their child’s side. Increased space will also mean that staff who work very long hours saving lives in tough conditions, will have adequate accommodation. These staff members work tirelessly to provide clinical, educational and research services.
Currently the 22-bed PICU at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital is the largest ICU for children in Africa. It provides emergency care for critically ill or injured children from within the Western Cape as well as the rest of South Africa and the African continent. There is a dire need to boost its capacity due to the growing demand for ICU beds in the country. This demand is driven by the increases in surgery requirements and escalations in detection of serious illnesses. In essence, the demands on this unit are higher than its capacity to deliver.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, said: “The project will certainly improve the current services that are offered for our paediatric patients not only in the province, but throughout the country. This will allow for more patients to be treated in the PICU. We would like to thank our partners who continue to collaborate with us in order to complement our services in the public health system.”
The Children’s Hospital Trust, which is fundraising for the R100 million-plus project, works alongside Western Cape Government Health. Government will contribute R30 million towards the ICU. The budget includes building costs as well as equipment needed for the unit.
CEO of the Trust, Louise Driver, explains, “The current Paediatric ICU not only has too few beds, but is also confined and crowded with insufficient space around the patients’ beds to accommodate life-saving equipment, nursing staff and anxious parents. There is also no suitable and private space for breastfeeding mothers and family counselling. As more nursing staff are required to be on duty 24/7, there is a real lack of comfortable staff facilities. The expansion and upgrade comes at a critical time and will go a long way in supporting child healthcare not only in South Africa but for other parts of the continent as well. This aim could not be reached without the incredibly generous donors who contribute generously to our efforts.”
The ground-breaking marks the start of what is set to be an impressive project, addressing the needs of little patients who need intensive care services. Currently, the absence of isolation units in the PICU increases the risk of cross infection, which can compromise the healing process of critically ill children. Furthermore, there is a dire need for a specifically designed area for neonatal care.
In early 2016, the Trust will roll out a public appeal to raise the final R10 million for the upgrade and expansion of the Paediatric ICU.