Helping hand for mothers, newborns


17 July 2013

Watching your sick child lying helplessly in a hospital is not easy for any mother – let alone having to spend nights on a hard, unsympathetic hospital bench.

This has been the life of 28-year-old mother Zanele Mkhize from Kingsway in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, since her arrival at the Far East Rand Hospital after her nine-year-old daughter was admitted for burn injuries.

Since the paediatric ward only accommodates sick children admitted at the hospital, Mkhize and other mothers are forced to sleep on the hospital benches as they are unable to travel to and from the hospital on a daily basis due to financial constraints.

Some of the mothers are breastfeeding and have to be close to their babies most of the time.

“I’ve brought my blanket, but sleeping on the bench is very painful, not to mention the cold at night, but I have to because I don’t have money to come to the hospital [daily]”, Mkhize told SAnews.

On Tuesday, Mkhize shed tears of joy as she and other mothers entered the hospital’s new Mother’s Lodge and Paediatric Step-down Facility, opened by Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo.

The facility is a collaborative effort by the government, mining company Lonmin, the local community and the hospital.

Lonmin invested R800 000 for the 18 beds at the Mother’s Lodge, where breastfeeding mothers as well as mothers like Mkhize will now be able to sleep over. The lodge includes a kitchen and a lounge area.

The Divhani Rasanova Paediatric Step-down Facility has a doctor’s room, store room, bathroom, medical area, changing area, play area as well as a reading area. The facility will at any time accommodate an average of 450 mothers on a rotational basis.

The facility is a place for newborn babies admitted at the hospital for long periods whose mothers cannot afford to commute to and from the hospital daily, as well as those without family support. It will assist in strengthening the quality of paediatric services in the province.

Handing over the facility on Tuesday, Papo commended Lonmin for identifying the area of need and entering into a partnership with the department to meet the need.

Hospital CEO Dr Lekopane Mogaladi recalled that when he arrived at the hospital in February, there were no mattresses and mothers were sleeping on the floor. “The look on their faces touched me and made me wonder if I was in their situation, how would I have survived,” Mogaladi said.

“The facility is a challenge for me and the management to further ensure that services across the entire institution do not bedevil the confidence shown by our partners. We can only turn for the better from here.”

Mogaladi added that he hoped the promises made by his colleagues including the social workers to engage mothers in activities would be kept.

Dr Marie Vermaak, Lonmin’s senior manager for health, said her company “acknowledges and supports the role of mothers and women in our company and our society, and we are happy to be able to assist the women of the communities served by the hospital.”

The hospital was established in 1900 and forms part of the Ekurhuleni Sedibeng region, where new and informal settlements alone account for one-million people, many of whom rely on the hospital for their healthcare.