Building for a brighter future: Creating the space for children to heal.

December 30, 2016 | By Toni Calliva

The 1st September 2015, marked the start of the four Phase Upgrade and Expansion of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH). Phase one of construction saw the first of the 3 patient units completed. Patients and staff were located in temporary units during construction, but soon settled into the new unit upon its completion.

The ICU at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital is the biggest in Africa and has an extraordinary team of people whose international collaborations have rolled out globally, as well as within Africa. The Hospital’s ICU provides opportunities for training registrars from all over Africa to specialise in paediatric critical care and members of the professional team are often invited to conferences and hospitals in Africa and abroad to share their insights and lecture in critical care for children.

As a result of the internationally renowned research, training and expertise, the Unit has achieved exceptional results, including the dramatic decrease in the mortality rate of children with burns and head injuries (accounts for the majority of trauma-related death and disability in South Africa).

The ICU teams deal with complex cases including cardiac (250-300 cases per year), neonatal surgery (on the smallest of children, weighing as little as 700grams), neurosurgery (with more experience than anywhere else globally particularly with brain oxygen monitoring), trauma and burns (managing far more cases than in USA and UK), chronic conditions, tracheostomy children, metabolic (diagnosing inborn errors at a cellular level), respiratory and neurological conditions.

Patients and staff moved into the first completed ICU Patient Unit in August 2016.


  Sha-annoor was the first patient to be moved from the old ICU to the newly refurbished ICU Patient Unit. Critical Care Nurse Koebra Orpen.

Three week old Sha-annoor, was the first patient to be moved from the old ICU unit into the first of the newly upgraded ICU patient units. He arrived at the Hospital on Friday 12th of August for a life-saving operation to correct the position of his heart and repair the vessels between his heart and lungs. The operation was an incredible success and Sha-annoor made a full recovery.

It was a huge comfort to his mother, Ayiesha, to know that her baby was in a vastly improved environment receiving the best possible care.


Sha-annoor with his mother Ayiesha in the newly refurbished ICU wing.

Critical care nurse, Koebra Orpen explained that she was “extremely excited to move into the new ICU unit. The bigger spaces and especially the isolation cubicles will improve the patient care levels that we can provide.”. Operational Manager, Nurse Marleen Petersen gave special thanks to the generous donors who contributed to the worthwhile cause.

KMH Architects started construction of the second and third patient units in September 2016. The second unit, currently known as the Surgical Unit will provide amongst other, for children who have undergone critical care surgery such as cardiac surgery, neuro-surgery, trauma, burns, neonatal surgery and so forth. It is set to be completed in 2017, within a budget of approximately £1 108 870. The vital medical equipment will cost an additional £713 423.

Once it opens, the new post-operative surgical wing will be an area where children who have undergone critical care surgery can be carefully nursed back to health. By increasing the capacity to accommodate more paediatric ICU beds, the hospital will be able to treat many more children each year. The improvement of the Hospital’s paediatric ICU will include high-care facilities for neonates, isolation units necessary to fight cross-infections for children with compromised immune systems, and enhanced facilities for staff and parents.

With over 260 000 patient visits a year, treating some of the most complex, life threatening conditions from all over South Africa and Africa the new upgrade and expansion project is going to enable the RCWMCH to keep up with the growing demand for their service and provide world class treatment to more children in need.


A new isolation unit to protect children from cross-infection.