Top children’s hospital under-utilised, paediatric nurses in short supply

A veteran public health care observer has voiced concerns that the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital is being under-utilised and should take in private patients to subsidise public patients.

Three years after the official opening of the 200-bed Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, concern has been raised that the facility is not operating at capacity.

Jack Bloom, a veteran public health care observer representing the DA in the Gauteng provincial legislature, submitted questions about the hospital to Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku.

A total of 1,625 patients were treated in the six months from April to September last year, but the oncology unit is still not open, according to Masuku’s written reply.

According to Masuku, the hospital has been funded by R300m for the 2019/2020 financial year, and the average bed occupancy rates are:

  • Paediatric ICU – 67%
  • Neonatal ICU – 71%
  • Neonatal high-care unit – 34%
  • Cardiac/surgical ward – 72%
  • Renal/surgical ward – 21% (opened in September 2019).

The last two general wards with 58 beds were due to open in January this year, but the 42-bed oncology unit will open only in April this year, said Bloom.

There are 62 vacant posts out of a total staff of 401 employees, with difficulties experienced in recruiting paediatric trained nurses and sub-specialists because of a countrywide shortage in these fields, he said.

The hospital is referral-only, and has seen 1,469 patients referred from Gauteng state hospitals in the six months, mostly from the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg hospitals.

“I am concerned this hospital is still under-utilised despite the vast need and overcrowding in neonatal facilities in state hospitals,” said Bloom.

“The hospital’s CEO, Mandisa Maholwana, has said it needs annual finding of R500m, so it will never be at full capacity unless this is forthcoming.

“If public funding or donations do not fill the gap, the hospital should explore revenue opportunities from private patients to subsidise public patients.”

The health department has been approached for comment.



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