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About SickKids

February 15, 2017

A shared vision: SickKids partners with Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust

SickKids celebrates a two-year partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust in South Africa

By Brianna Bendici

Quote from Nelson Mandela:

On Wednesday, February 15, a strategic partnership between The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (NMCHT) was celebrated in Johannesburg, South Africa. Signed in April 2016, this two-year partnership is supported through a C$2.5 million investment from the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada. Through this formal partnership, SickKids is providing capacity-building support for the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH).

In May 1995, former South African President Nelson Mandela launched the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, laying out a vision of hope for the children of Southern Africa. He began his speech with the words, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

In 2005, Nelson Mandela shared his dream of building a children’s hospital in Johannesburg that offered the children of Southern Africa state-of-the-art health care. He expressed his concern over the limited availability of specialized paediatric facilities to treat seriously ill and injured children in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust broke ground for the construction of the new Hospital in March 2014 and in December 2016, a key component of Mandela’s vision was realized as the NMCHT celebrated the completion of the building and equipment installation.

Building the legacy

The 200-bed hospital has been designed to be a specialist, referral only, tertiary facility and will provide services in Cardiology and Cardiothoracic surgery, Haematology and Oncology, Nephrology, Pulmonology, Craniofacial surgery, Neurosciences and General Paediatric surgical services. The hospital will be integrated into the referral networks of the academic hospitals throughout South Africa.

SickKids was first approached by the NMCHT in 2012 to begin exploring opportunities for collaboration and in October 2015, Dr. Michael Apkon, President and CEO of SickKids and Lutfi Haj-Assaad, Executive Director, SickKids International (SKI) visited South Africa and the NMCH.

“Seeing the hospital in person confirmed our initial thoughts that this project fit very well with our vision of improving paediatric health care around the world” Haj-Assaad said. “This is when SickKids decided to partner with NMCHT to support the commissioning of this hospital. SickKids applied for funding to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to fund the project and it was approved in the spring of 2016,” Haj-Assaad explained.

Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital opening in South Africa
Leonard Nolasco (Project Manager, SickKids), Cathy Séguin (VP International Affairs, SickKids), Nana Magomola (Deputy Chair, NMCH Trust), Sibongile Mkhabela (CEO, NMCH Trust), Sandra McCardell (Canadian High Commissioner to South Africa (Namibia, Lesotho, Mauritius and Madagascar)

In this partnership, SickKids has been providing recommendations and support to help facilitate the successful opening, operations and management of NMCH, to assist in establishing a world-class clinical research and teaching platform.

The capacity-building we’ve been providing to NMCH for the last ten months includes technical assistance on the recruitment and training of key operational and clinical staff, establishment of governance and management structures and the sharing of clinical and research expertise. SickKids will be sharing with NMCH our intellectual property including policies, protocols, job descriptions, staffing requirements, and patient referral, transfer and transportation criteria to serve as a guide for NMCH to develop their own.

This project is being overseen by two full-time project managers, supported by a leadership team and Steering Committee in Toronto.  The team has been actively facilitating project activities, coordinating subject matter expert (SME) visits by SickKids staff to Johannesburg as well as hosting members of the NMCH team in Canada, immersing individuals within our hospital and giving them access to our people, our facilities and our resources.  The project team also acts as a liaison between NMCH, GAC and SickKids staff.

SMEs will not be doing any hands-on clinical work throughout the two-year partnership. However, they are responsible for the training of key operational and clinical staff to ensure that the hospital will be ready to receive and care safely for paediatric patients when they officially open the doors. It is expected that NMCH will be open to patients later this year with limited services in Dialysis and Radiology.

“Establishing a dedicated paediatric hospital recognizes the rights of all children to be cared for in an appropriate, safe, child and environmentally friendly facility that will best serve their health needs regardless of their gender, and/or socio-economic status” Haj-Assaad commented. “The medical schools in South Africa are excellent and the doctors are highly trained; however caring for children in a paediatric facility is different than a paediatric department.”

Speakers sit on a kid-designed bench during the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital opening in South Africa
Joe Seoloane (Interim CEO, NMCH), Cathy Séguin (VP International Affairs, SickKids), Sandra McCardell (Canadian High Commissioner to South Africa)

The first year of the project has been focused on commissioning the hospital. The project has now shifted with more activities planned around education and on-site training. As the project comes to completion in the spring of 2018 the team will close out the project and undertake a lot of evaluation work. “The relationship will most definitely continue in a different format long after the project comes to an end,” Haj-Assaad added.

For SickKids, this partnership means a lot. It is the joining of two great brands and SickKids is truly honoured to collaborate with NMCHT and NMCH on this journey. This is SickKids’ first partnership in Africa involving commissioning a hospital and it has already given our staff an amazing opportunity to explore a new location, environment and culture.  We are grateful to Global Affairs Canada and several generous donors for their support in enabling this partnership.

“We believe that this is the right thing to do. We are doing it because it is exactly what SickKids vision embodies; Healthier Children. A Better World.” says Haj-Assaad.