Sebokeng – Making a Difference in Tiny Lives

The neonatal unit at Sebokeng Hospital, one of the largest regional hospitals in Gauteng, is the only unit taking in babies from the surrounding areas as well as patients referred from other provinces. Adding to the significant patient burden is the fact that this neonatal unit has only been able to accommodate babies up to 28 days old, compromising their care thereafter. But there is hope. The Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust’s new sophisticated Infant High Care Ward is saving tiny lives.

Age Restriction: 13
Duration: 08:35

Sebokeng the largest township in the Vaal triangle, by car about an hour south of Johannesburg. It’s an area literately bursting at the seams from suburban homes to informal settlements.

Dr Ngcwabe (CEO Sebokeng Hospital): The burden of diseases has increased, trauma, violence. HIV, Hypertension. We are seeing a lot of premature babies. As a result we are full all the time.

Dr Zolela Ngcwabe, CEO of Sebokeng Hospital, is only too familiar with the strains of struggling to serve the over a million people who come, from not just the surrounding townships, but the Free State, Lesotho and even Zimbabwe. The hospital’s medical facilities are stretched to the limit.

Despite these demands six-month-old Thabsang is getting the High Care treatment he would get in any of the country’s best private clinics, but  a few months ago little Thabasang could have been in no man’s land.

And this is because Carte Blanche’s Making a Difference Trust has built a brand new infant high care ward offering emergency critical care for babies over twenty-eight days. Previously these little patients were farmed out wherever there was a bed be it Baragwaneth Hospital or an adult ward in Sebokeng.

Dr Theletsane (HOO Paediatric Department, Sebokeng): It’s very comforting for me as a specialist to know that, when a child comes in and they are in trouble at least I have something to offer them….

No one is more delighted with this new unit than Chief Paediatrician Dr Thapelo Theletsane.

Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): Why do you have to make this very distinct separation at twenty-eight days?

Dr Theletsane: Babies that are born from birth until twenty-eight days, we refer to those as neonates, and obviously they have their separate unit. We would discharge these kids and when they come back sick it’s difficult to admit them back into the unit, because of the germs that they have acquired at home.

Derek Watts: Are you saying there can be complications if a baby goes out into the community and then returns to a ward, to a unit? There are dangers…

Dr Theletsane: Definitely, there are dangers.

In this community, around 35 % of the babies are malnourished which leads to high incidences of pneumonia. This high care unit can not only save these babies lives, but often avert the need for them to go to an ICU.

Dr Ngcwabe: I feel satisfied, humbled…

Dr Ngcwabe believes the new high tech equipment of the ward will help address our growing nursing shortage… Also evident at Sebokeng.

Dr Ngcwabe: They are monitoring screens. We have got patient one here, which is that patient. So a sister can actually sit here and actually use the monitors. They can actually pick up, before a complication. Instead of having a lot of resources, we have actually put everything within here, and we can manage and see where danger is. And I think that is the way to go moving forward…

Derek Watts: Just looking at the opening, I mean emotions where running high…

Dr Nwcube: I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. You know sometimes we all see it we all plan, but when we were saying that “Yes it is here”, I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it. I was very grateful for the hospital to help us fulfil the dream that we always wanted…
This high care unit was made possible by a donation of almost R5-million from mining house South 32.

Nomfundo Mqadi (Corporate Affairs Manager South 32): If you look at the budget. Our donation here is not huge, but the impact is huge! That is what has actually convinced us and we just try, day by day, to make a difference from the ground up.

The Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust is eight years old, and has raised over R120 million. Building and improving children’s hospital wards, ICUs, and emergency care facilities around South Africa.

Mqadi: The way the Trust actually does it. They go to the patients, they go to the staff, and they ask them how do we create a friendly place?

Patron of the trust, Karolina Andropoulos, is committed to improving our paediatric facilities. It was the passing of her daughter Georgiana from a rare form of cancer that inspired the creation of the Trust.

Sponsoring the first public high care infant unit in the Sedibeng district was a no brainer for South 32’s Operations Manager Garth La Fleur.

Garth La Fleur (Operations Manager, Metalloys, South 32): I’ve personally have been involved with this community for more than 20 years now. We are deeply committed to our communities here in this Sedibeng area. We have deep roots in this area as a company; we wanted to give back.

Mqadi: This is about improving the quality of life and it starts with the babies. And hospitals are those areas in our community that should give hope.

Like 2-month-old baby Mpho, who had severe bronchial pneumonia. Mpho was discharged 2 weeks ago much to the relief of his mother Nomatemba.

Derek Watts: Nomatemba, how is little Mpho doing now?

Nomatemba: He’s is much better now that we are back from the hospital.

It was touch and go for Mpho’s first two days in the high care ward.

Derek Watts: Were there times we you thought you might lose your little baby?

Nomatemba: [Looks down and nods].

Derek Watts: You thought he might not make it?

Nomatemba: [Looks away, mumbles].

Derek Watts: Shame, but he’s looking good now.

This new unit along with its sophisticated equipment has actually set Sebokeng on a new path: a link with Chis Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital that will benefit specialists in training along with their little patients.

Dr Theletsane: I am quite excited that starting next year there have been registrars that are going to be starting with us here. And not only that, there’s also been talk about involving the student interns for them to come and rotate here. Because this area as it is it has a lot of pathology that can actually teach lots and lots to the students as well.

Derek Watts: So what we’re talking about is these young patients getting very professional medical care.

Dr Theletsane: With the registrars coming along that is going to improve the system in many ways. One, it also addresses the issue that has to do with staff shortages. It will keep us on our toes in that we always have to be keeping in touch with what’s happening in the world out there, to be able to pass on the knowledge to the registrars as they rotate with us here.

In these tight financial times, money is often hard to come by, donations not easily given. Sakhiwo Health Solutions once again partnered with the Trust to develop the unit, Polyflor have donated the flooring on all the campaigns hospitals and this is the third time South 32 have sponsored a project.

Derek Watts: Garth why has South 32 continued to support the Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust?

La Fleur: A very high percentage of the money that we contribute actually finds its way into actual equipment, into actual refurbishment. It’s not being filtered off someplace else. With that we trust where the money is being used, we like the governance. We like that there is follow up to ensure that the units are working. There is no use investing money like this if it’s not going to be effective and useful for the communities.

Making a Difference Sebokeng