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Groote Schuur Neonatal Upgrade

The Children’s Hospital Trust announces the funding of the expansion and upgrade of Groote Schuur Neonatal Unit, strengthening neonatal care across the Western Cape Province while lessening the burden on the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

The Groote Schuur Hospital Neonatal Unit was built during the early 1970’s and currently struggles to accommodate vital 21st century technological developments and equipment. Housing 75 neonatal beds, the unit is overcrowded and has only one quarter of the amount of space it should have for the number of patients cared for.

Through the Children’s Hospital Trust – which advances child healthcare through the Red Cross Children’s Hospital – a benevolent UK-based South African donor has stepped forward to fund the renovation in memory of his maternal grandparents, Jack and Ruby Abelsohn. Jack Abelsohn was the first senior Resident Anaesthetist to be appointed at Groote Schuur after it was officially opened in 1938. He remained associated with the hospital throughout his life, continuing to work there as a consultant until his untimely passing in 1979. It is fitting that the upgraded Neonatal Unit should therefore bear his name. The Trust has fundraised R40 million for the project, while the Western Cape Government hast contributed R5 million.

CEO of the Children’s Hospital Trust, Louise Driver, says, “Globally nearly three million newborn babies die each year. In the Western Cape, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital works very closely with the Groote Schuur Neonatal Unit to ensure that neonates are given the best chance of survival. The Trust works through the Red Cross Children’s Hospital to advance healthcare across the continent. By strengthening facilities such as the Groote Schuur Neonatal Unit, we can alleviate the demand on the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.”

CEO Groote Schuur Hospital and Chairperson of the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust Board, Dr Patel, says, “The Newborns Groote Schuur Trust secured a R5million contribution towards phase one of this project from the Department of Health, but would not have been able to proceed with the upgrading of the Neonatal Unit without the full support of the Children’s Hospital Trust. Working together in this way and investing in the care provided to prematurely born babies, we can ensure that all our tiny patients get the best possible start in life.”

Red Cross Children’s Hospital paediatric surgeon, Dr Sharon Cox, explains that Groote Schuur manages babies needing medical assistance from birth, either because they are premature and are too small to go home or because they need help due to infections or breathing or feeding issues. Some of these babies will need surgeries.

“The surgery is performed at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, where a 10 bed neonatal unit is being built as part of the paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) upgrade. Once stable after surgery, many of these babies need a few more weeks of hospital care to grow and thrive before they can go home. These are the babies that are transferred back to Groote Schuur nursery, which has many more beds, the appropriate expertise, as well as facilities for mothers,” she explains, adding that the Red Cross Children’s Hospital ICU is not designed to manage babies needing long term care and monitoring while growing until it is safe to allow them home, which is why the two hospitals work so closely together, offering different functions for different phases of treatment.

She says, “Each hospital plays a role in the continued care of the babies and both are essential to good patient outcomes.”

One of the patients who has benefitted from the relationship between Groote Schuur Hospital and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital is three-year-old Nawaal. Read her story here.

The renovation of the Groote Schuur Neonatal Unit will improve neonatal healthcare across the province, preventing neonatal infections, increasing space in the unit, improving efficiency and workflow, and providing an environment that is conducive to the physical and emotional health of babies, parents and staff.


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